Food science and technology is the study of the various chemical and physical properties and components of food and how they respond to processing, preservation and storage. It is the application of this knowledge plus that from other disciplines such as chemistry, biochemistry, microbiology and engineering, that is needed in providing a wide variety of safe, appealing and affordable foods for sustenance and for pleasure.
Food scientists and technologists must be able to apply know-how to produce, process, package, preserve, store, distribute and prepare quality food – efficiently and consistently. Essentially, they take over at the point where the harvested produce enters the factory or processing plant and their contribution ends when the consumer expresses satisfaction with the final product and makes the decision to purchase the product again.
What Food Science and Technology is not
People unfamiliar with the food and allied industries may confuse food technologists with nutritionists, dieticians, domestic science graduates, health inspectors, cooks and chefs!
Nutrition or Dietetics – nutritionists and dieticians focus on the nutritional aspects of foods. They formulate balanced meals and advise and consult on healthy and specialised diets. Dieticians are employed mostly by hospitals, clinics and mass feeding institutions or are self employed consulting dieticians. Some are employed by the food industry where their expertise may be used to formulate foods to meet specific dietary requirements such as foods for sportsmen, babies, etc.
Domestic Science – or Human Ecology and Consumer Science as it is now known – the food related component of this course concentrates on food preparation in the home and for institutions but someone trained in this field could assist in the food industry, in formulating and testing consumer preparation and presentation guidelines for products.
Health Inspection – environmental health officers are responsible for, inter alia, factory hygiene, enforcement of food legislation, inspection and sampling, investigation of complaints/food poisoning, health certification of food premises, imports and exports and are employed by municipalities and local authorities.
Catering and Cooking – caterers and chefs are trained to prepare and present food to maximise its taste and appeal – this is more of a craft than a science. A chef’s expertise may be necessary in developing new and exotic dishes and products for manufacturing or in providing recipes and serving suggestions for products.