Food Engineering

By Diana Maricruz Perez Santos

Food industry has a lot of processes: cooking, baking, frying, drying and more.  Thankfully these processes exist so now we can eat all kinds of unimaginable foods.  Food engineering is the knowledge area that keeps developing and growing food processes. Here are some tips that I learned working in this field.

Save energy = save money

No matter the process, the main priority is always to find the way to save energy because this helps to save money. The most important improvements that we can explore are reducing time or temperature. To this end it is important  to know  these engineering tools:

1.- Mass and energy balance of the process: I know the food processes are more complicated than chemistry processes because our raw materials change constantly, but this tool always helps to understand the process.

2.-Thermodinamic laws: The way that I learned this was peculiar…

Law 0 : “I am hot, if you are close to me you will be hot too because we have equilibrium”

Law 1: “It can run but it can’t hide” (the energy)

Law 2: “We never win all” (entropy wasn’t invited but it arrives anywhere)

Law 3: I never understand well…, don’t worry, you will hardly use this one.

3.-Arrhenius equation: This equation says that there exist many processes that are temperature dependent and you can use this equation to find a range of temperatures to optimize  your process. Again,  the food materials kinetic constants are more difficult, but you can find some approximations.

4.-Imagination for design: If you are working on a process design, your objective will be have the highest efficiency of process (it will the same if you work in research or industry), but you will handle them with all the food safety standards related, the permitted materials, space dimensions, heat transfer of the process. These sometimes limit the ideas. You need  your imagination and these factors to get the best design.

Quality administration = safe money

There are many quality administration tools. In my opinion, not all are good, some produce a lot of irrelevant information and waste  time and effort for employers. The best quality tool for me is TPM or Total Productive Maintenance.  In essence this tool prevents a problem before it occurs, helps to solve a problem when it occurs and train us about potential problems. With  good implementation on food engineering this tool hels to understand the root of many problems on production.

Food safety + try to save money = problems

Food safety is the most important thing that we consider in food engineering. Simply, if we don’t produce safe food products, we won’t make money, but this simple sentence is hard to understand in production. Here some things that you will handle as food engineer on production floor (Don’t feel bad if you are not invited to parties):

  • Explain to supplier why you rejected their raw material because it is not in  good condition.
  • Explain to production engineer the necessity of doing quality tests at beginning, during and end of the production.
  • Explain to management why you stopped the production because the product is not safe for consumers.
  • Explain to employers (including the owner) why you report them because they aren’t using  their personal protective equipment.
  • Explain to warehouse personnel why you won’t let the product go to grocery stores.

Finally, I want to say that food engineering has a lot of focus areas for OFG’s. Not all are numbers and equations. Food engineering includes all aspects of food production from the selection of raw materials to the packaging. Consider them all and the results will be awesome.

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Science Meets Food

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1 Comment

  1. I liked your description of the third law of thermodynamics. Made me look back on my undergraduate years. Now if only students can find food engineering interesting.

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