Food Science: Past, Present, and Future

By: Diana Maricruz Pérez Santos

Food science is a knowledge area that not only focuses on our dietary needs, but solves many food related challenges. It has likely been present in the history of humanity, since the beginning. Let’s take a look at the development of food science throughout the years and discuss what the future holds.

From the Beginning

In my opinion, the history of food science began when humans transitioned from nomads to farmers. This led to practices such as growing fruit, cattle domestication, and agriculture, which helped our ancestors survive through difficult times.

The growth of the human population and advancement in civilization led to the first processed foods due to a need for a longer shelf life. People needed to be able to store food for when it was less abundant. It also helped to make food safer. Early forms of processed food, such as bread and wine, were favorable because they lasted a longer.

As food production expanded, food safety was key to preventing widespread illness among populations. We are lucky to have a relatively safe food supply today, but historically only royalty had access to high quality food. For example, here in Mexico, Montezuma’s slaves (Emperor of pre-hispanic Mexico) ran distances of about 20,000 miles a day in order to bring him fresh fish. I’m sure they would have liked to have a HACCP plan instead!

Nicolas Appert’s food preservation method was undoubtedly the invention that marked a turning point in the science of food, allowing for its further growth and industrialization. Appert is known as the father of canning, since he developed the first canning methods that successfully preserved foods such as soups, vegetables, juices, and dairy products.

Food Science Today

Food Science and research in the field as we know them today were marked with the birth of university programs focused on this area. Subjects such as engineering, chemistry, physics, and biology are all integrated into the food science major and support the cultivation of food scientists.

The founding of IFT in 1939 has been very important in fostering the growth and development of the field of food science. The organization brings together scientists from more than 100 different countries with varying disciplines. It promotes the field of food science through communication, outreach, and networking events.

Science and Industry

Food science is crucial to the success of the food industry, helping to develop thousands of products that make life better for today’s consumer. Many companies consider research in this field a profitable investment.  Also, thanks to food science, consumers are capable of experiencing food products from all over the world.

A Hopeful Future

Incredibly, the moon and space have already been conquered by food science several decades ago when scientists had to figure out how to keep astronaut food safe. Going forward, I think we should aim to better inform the consumer about the products and processes we create, develop environmentally friendly processes, and continue to create functional products.

Lastly, with this post I hope to motivate scientists in a field that is vast and limitless. We must all learn from the past so we can look toward a brighter future as there much more to be discovered in the field of food science!

What do you see as the future of food science and what role do you want to play? Join the conversation on our Instagram and Facebook for more weekly updates, news, and food science!


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Science Meets Food

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  1. Great post Diana and welcome to the site! I think going forward, food science programs need to incorporate more computer/technology classes as well as a strong emphasis on food safety. It seems like a lot of programs place more emphasis on the product development side. I would also like to see food science programs offering courses in basic auditing so people can get into inspection work with better training.

  2. I hope food science and technology to be better than our expectation

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