Foods, Science and Technology
The focus of Food Technology is on food science and technology, which integrates concepts from several other science fields such as microbiology, chemistry, zoology, entomology, nutrition, pharmacology, veterinary science, anatomy, pharmacology, biochemistry and physiology. Food technology is the broadest possible perspective on food science and encompasses all aspects of food processing and food quality. Food technology focuses on food products and methods from start to finish including growth, maturation, handling, storage and distribution. The breadth of food science and technology covers all food components and product manufacturing processes including nutrition, food additives, food processing techniques and hygiene/ sanitation methods.
The objective of Food Technologists is to increase the productivity, quality and competitiveness of the food supply by investing in knowledge and developing new technologies that will make a positive impact on the society. Technologists in food science and technology work together to conduct and develop scientific research, apply them to relevant fields in food supply and improve the quality of the food supply. These scientists use their expertise to find better ways to grow, process and preserve food. They also use their skills to expand global food markets, finding solutions for food security and environmental sustainability.
A growing number of scientists and technology specialists are concentrating on the improvement of our environment to prevent global warming. They study the interaction of lifestyle, culture and infrastructure and how these may affect our health, understanding some science behind why some foods are considered more attractive than others, for example, and developing ways to preserve and make healthier foods. Others study the way humans interact with nature, identifying breeding grounds for disease and coming up with ways to reduce or eliminate the threat. Nutrition experts look at nutritional science and research, trying to understand obesity, diet, nutrition and food additives. Others are concerned with food safety, studying foods and their manufacturing processes and determining the extent to which they are safe from contamination. Foods and food additives have been identified as major causes of serious illness and disease in humans.
In agriculture, technology plays an important role. As farmers become more sophisticated in breeding and harvesting their own crops, they face problems that require science and technology solutions. Biotechnology has come into focus as a solution for farmers who are looking to improve the yields of their crops. Other technologies are targeted at making the food system more efficient. Genetic and bioinformatics engineering is particularly useful in this area because it enables genetic alterations to increase the productivity of agricultural plants.
In food processing, science and technology play a decisive role in quality assurance, regulating ingredients, eliminating contamination, improving texture and physical appearance and increasing production efficiency. Chemical analysis plays an important role in quality assurance in the food product processing industry. microbiology is an area of science and technology that is used to identify bacteria, fungi and viruses in food products.
In the biomedical industry, science and technology have made significant contributions in developing cures and treatments for many diseases and illnesses. These include chronic fatigue syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has established a division called Institute for Food Science and Technology (IFST) to promote research, develop new technologies and disseminate findings on food science and agriculture. The division aims to foster the exchange of ideas and information among food science and agriculture experts and to help improve nutrition and food safety.
Advances in technology and discovery of new compounds and enzymes that can assist the process of absorption of foods have affected the taste and flavor of certain foods. For example, an enzyme found in many fruits is responsible for the rich taste of blackcurrants. Another technology in food science and agriculture is the use of molecular distillation. It involves heating certain foods at very high temperatures and then drying them to remove compounds that may have been dissolved in the water when they were cooked. The drying removes the flavorful components from the foods. Improved flavor and nutrient retention are two of the other major areas of food science and agriculture research.
Advances in the food industry have led to more availability of affordable and healthier foods. With this in mind, various professionals in the science and technology field have worked together to come up with new ways of producing, packaging and advertising food products. This includes food additives and preservatives to enhance the taste and texture of foods. Biotechnology has also been an area of increasing interest because of the potential applications to create crops that are more disease resistant and that are likely to survive natural disasters such as floods and drought. There are also newer ways to deliver food, such as through supermarkets that are becoming more energy efficient and with products that don’t require refrigeration.