What are the 3 Areas of Food Science?

Food science is a multidisciplinary program field that applies chemistry, microbiology, engineering and nutrition to develop new food products and processes to improve food safety and quality. It incorporates concepts from fields such as chemistry, physics, physiology, microbiology and biochemistry. Food technology incorporates concepts from chemical engineering, for example. Food science is a complex field that encompasses three main areas: food safety, food quality and product development.

Food safety is concerned with preventing pathogens in food. It is almost impossible to eliminate microorganisms from any food, but many steps can be taken to slow their growth or inactivate them. What food science is doing in terms of food safety is developing highly sensitive and rapid techniques to identify pathogenic microorganisms and the toxins they produce in foods, and to develop packages and processes that inhibit their growth and reduce their survival rate. Food quality is the study of how microorganisms interact with food, food microbiology focuses on bacteria, molds, yeasts and viruses.

Not all microorganisms are harmful, but some cause food spoilage. The key to controlling spoilage is to kill as many bacteria as we can without also killing the quality of the food in which they reside. Areas of particular importance for product development are food safety and quality. Product development involves designing a development plan for a new product. It is essential to consider the microbial quality of each component and how that may affect the overall quality of the product, and to determine how to process the product so that it has a sufficient shelf life.

Food engineers develop the concepts that processors use to convert raw materials into safe and durable food. Nutritionists often associate thermal processing with detrimental effects on the nutritional quality of foods, but not always. Recent work at Cornell University showed that heating tomatoes raises the level of a phytochemical called lycopene that fights cancer. High-pressure processing (HPP) is 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, such as changes in flavor, texture or color. The nutritional profile of juices is not altered by the process, so there is no need to fortify them. Food science brings together multiple scientific disciplines.

Food science is a multidisciplinary program field that applies chemistry, microbiology, engineering and nutrition to develop new food products and processes to improve food safety and quality. The degree in food science is internationally recognized and approved by the Institute of Food Technologists. Many students participate in internships at food companies and related industries. Students can receive course credits for internships and, at the same time, purchase. The Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition also has many scholarships available. In addition to the core areas, students select at least one area of interdisciplinary concentration or emphasis to personalize the program based on their individual interests.

Learn more about Food Science requirements and courses. The food industry offers a network of careers related to supply, consumption, production, research and development, processing, safety and packaging. Food science graduates work for a variety of companies, industries, government agencies, and academic sectors. Teachers and counselors maintain close relationships with partners in the food industry which can help with internships, scholarships and employment in food-related fields. There are also a number of professional associations and organizations in the food sector to encourage networking and professional growth. After the initial stages of research and development, food products are mass-produced using the principles of food technology.

As field managers, food scientists study the physical, microbial and chemical composition of food. With this special training in Applied Food Science there are many exciting and productive careers with a wide range of employment opportunities for the trained professional such as Rajsari Raghunath who wants to shape food policy and help make food labels accessible to all or Lichchavi Dan Rajasinghe who has received multiple praises for identifying a safe and effective way to treat lupus. In addition to jobs and internships for students there are opportunities for overseas education and undergraduate research at MSU which is an affirmative action equal opportunity employer committed to achieving excellence through a diverse workforce. Some of the country's pioneering food scientists were women who had attended chemistry programs at universities with grants (which were state-mandated) but who later graduated had difficulty finding work due to generalized sexism in the chemical industry in the late 19th century early 20th century.

Eloise Marchiano
Eloise Marchiano

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