Exploring the Five Areas of Food Science

Food science is a practical name used to describe the application of scientific principles to creating and maintaining a healthy food supply. In the United States, guidelines identify five main areas of food science: food chemistry, food microbiology, food processing, food engineering, and food analysis.

Food Chemistry

focuses on the chemical composition of foods and how they interact with each other. It is concerned with the study of the physical, chemical, and biochemical properties of foods and their components.

This includes understanding how different components interact with each other and how they are affected by processing, storage, and preparation.

Food Microbiology

is almost impossible to eliminate microorganisms from any food, but many steps can be taken to slow their growth or inactivate them. This field focuses on bacteria, molds, yeasts and viruses and how they interact with food. Areas of particular importance for product development are food safety and quality.

Food safety is concerned with preventing pathogens in food while quality is focused on controlling spoilage.

Food Processing

involves developing highly sensitive and rapid techniques to identify pathogenic microorganisms and the toxins they produce in foods, as well as developing packages and processes that inhibit their growth and reduce their survival rate. Food engineers develop the concepts that processors use to convert raw materials into safe and durable food. They also consider the microbial quality of each component when designing a development plan for a new product.

Food Engineering

is concerned with how an ingredient is processed and how it can have a dramatic effect on the flavor, color, safety and shelf life of foods.

High-pressure processing (HPP) is an example of a non-thermal or “cold” pasteurization process developed to allow the production of fruit and vegetable juices without any of the harmful effects of heat treatments.

Food Analysis

involves using sensory science to describe and evaluate the flavors, textures, appearance, and other attributes of food. Nutritionists often associate thermal processing with detrimental effects on the nutritional quality of foods, but not always. Food research is also conducted to study foods and their components in order to ensure competitive and high-quality products.

Food science is an interdisciplinary field that has become increasingly important in this era of litigation. It is essential for product developers to consider microbial quality when designing a development plan for a new product as well as how to process it so that it has a sufficient shelf life. Consumers are also being educated in this area and will expect health benefits from their food away from home that they get from their homes. The commitment of food science professionals to promote food science, ensure a safe and abundant food supply, and help make people healthier around the world is an integral part of that evolution.

Eloise Marchiano
Eloise Marchiano

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