By: Emily Del Bel
In the past 48 hours I have seen at least four articles touting the demons of a variety of food science-related topics pop up on my Facebook newsfeed. Naturally I can’t resist reading them. Then follows the internal debate about whether or not I have the time to look up sources to dispute them, clarify the misconceptions, and if it will do any good. Since I know that starting an argument I can’t possibly win is a lesson in making one’s self crazy, I inevitably decide that it’s not worth the time or energy and move on. But today, an article from the Intrepid Culinologist showed up (posted to Facebook by the IFT page) that I really wanted to respond to.
This article opens with the amazing statistic: only 350 students in the ENTIRE United States this last year graduated with a bachelor’s degree in food science. Because I am one of those 350 students (Oregon State ’12), it caught my eye. The author, Rachel Zemser, a food scientist and certified culinary scientist, then goes on to question why there are so few students pursuing this degree since, she states, those graduates are almost guaranteed job placement for life! She believes the reason behind this is that we disguise food science with marketing schemes such as “silly rabbits, green giants, and doughboys.” According to her, we need to show the public our true identities as scientists who work diligently to create food in a “safe and routine way.”
I couldn’t agree more.
Last July, I wrote about the challenge of explaining my career choice to friends and family, and how I intended to use the World Without Food Science video to help explain it to them. In addition to this video, there are some other great ones about how the food that we eat is made, such as How It’s Made website. The show has been airing on the Discovery Channel for years and contains a great collection of videos about how a wide variety of foods are made, in plants and kitchens of all shapes and sizes, from little Mom-and-Pop companies to international distributors.
This is the food science that people need to see. Not, as Ms. Zemser describes it, “Aunt Jemima’s probably-not-HACCP-certified kitchen”. (Hah!) Add to that a dose of the Day in the Life videos produced by IFT and you get a better idea of the fantastic contributions that food scientists are making.
We must educate the public about the true role of food scientists. We work tirelessly to ensure that there are a myriad of product choices, and that food is widely available, safe to eat, nutritious, and fun. So the next time you see one, thank them! (And thank you, Ms. Zemser, for inspiring me to write this post!)
How do you handle it when people post misinformation about something you’re passionate about? Let us know in the comments below.
We need to go on a mission- travel across the United States and stand up on soap boxes and spread the good word of Food Science! The few and the proud that we are! When I graduated back in 1994- there were THREE people in my graduating class. the numbers are increasing but not by much. Thanks again for reading and reposting. Rachel
It’ll be interesting to see what the numbers are in a few years though. As a current grad student, I hear my profs talking about how their undergrad classes are increasing in size. I once TA’d a food chem class with 60 students!
As far as educating the ignorant… I recently bought stock in a wig company.
Fortunately, the most recent publication of Food Technology showed that more people are beginning to study food science, which is great since it is such an underrated field. I always find it tiring to constantly explain to people what food science is and that it’s not the same as a chef or a nutritionist. Here’s to a growing interest!
Rachel- I agree! Leann and Kimberlee, I think that you are right, the numbers are growing. It’s just taking a while to get the new students graduated! I suppose that I should be glad about “job security” but I will be happy when the job is common enough that I no longer have to explain it to anyone I’m making casual conversation with.
It’s amazing to me that there are not enough graduates to fill open positions and people are still going for marketing/business etc. and struggling to find jobs when they could take Food Science and get hired immediately!
HI everyone, great discussion. I definitely agree that many people do not understand the importance about what we do from a food science background. I feel it so much with the people surrounding me- not knowing even to read food labels. Yes, definitely a marketing or business have been influencing the food demands-taking through consumer to what they would like to see. But, it would all depend on the consumer to learn what is best for them.
As far as food science provides food security, I cannot commend but I know it is more than food security but the knowledge about our food and how to choose carefully- which other major would not benefit us in such a way. I have difficulty finding a “truly” food science job and ended up in marketing. Nevertheless, I would like to share a bit of experience working in marketing. The food product labels are very important for us in the marketing. It is the main channel for us to talk to our customer directly. For example, I can claim my product contains calcium. The claim merely telling my customer that the product give them calcium and it is not a lie. It is a problem when the consumer do not know how to read the label and perhaps thought it is high in calcium.
I’m glad to see that the numbers are growing for food science graduates. We will definitely need them as the world’s population continues to grow. I’m currently a graduate student in food science, but when I was in college, I did not even know that the field existed. In fact, they did not offer food science as a major where I went. I hope that more universities start to see the importance of food science and start to offer more classes in the field.
Bromatology is a relatively new field that had only been recently designated the professional denomination. It integrates a wide range of sub-disciplines associating to the science of food, food derived products and food related aspects. This article intends to help those interested in pursuing careers in bromatology and those making bromatology related career decisions from the wide range of opportunities available. The content of this article is based on experience after years of university education in this field including communications with many seniors and colleagues, bromatology related employers and academic professionals as well as reviewing the spectrum of bromatology related scientific journals.
What is Bromatology
The roles of bromatologists can be roughly divided into four main categories but they all have inter-relationships with each other. The four main sub-fields include food product development, food physiology, food engineering and food forensics and biosecurity. Each sub-field includes a range of sub-topics and a few of them are listed here. Some of these classifications may be in ambiguous sub-fields and may overlap with roles in other fields but note that no field will be exclusively confined due to the importance of different approaches and perspectives in different fields.
Food product development constitutes of an amplitude of sub-topics such as commercial products (novel flavors, gluten-free, probiotic cultures, new restaurant menu), nutraceuticals (multi-vitamins, coenzyme Q10, dietary fibre, shark cartilage), specialized diets (perinatal, geriatric, exercise, weight management) and food related materials (food additive and food packaging material synthesis and extraction).
The sub-field of food physiology is composed of sub-topics extending to food component effects (nutrition, food toxicology), sensory psychology (neural hypothalamic appetite control, psychophysics – Weber & Fechner’s law), food related diseases (diabetes, cardiovascular diseases), food microbiology (pathogens, probiotics), food safety (contaminants, allergens, detergents) and food physiology genetics (nutrigenomics, gastronomics, toxicogenomics).
Furthermore, there is food engineering that accommodates domains stretching in manufacture (synthesis scale up), packaging (nano-encapsulation), distribution (shelf life deterioration kinetics), food processing effects (pulsed electric field), food physics (Newtonian rheology), food genetic modification (GM salmon, maize), production waste management (process by-products), food mathematical modeling (stochastic model for spoilage rate) and food agriculture (food crop fertilizers, irrigation quality).
Food forensics and biosecurity focuses on certification of claims (GM free, nutrition claim, organic), prevention of food terrorism (1984 Oregon attack – 751 food poisoning) and characteristics and origins of food safety compromising agents (food poisoning, lead contaminants, milk melamine scandal).
Academic Training for Bromatological Career Pathways
The bromatology undergraduate degree provides career opportunities in all positions in the bromatology field, but some roles may require higher degrees, further certification or build-up career ranks after the completion of the undergraduate degree.
The general bromatology academic training pathway is as follows:
Academic training should be reflective of what type of bromatology opportunities you want to pursue in the future and this provides a guideline to minimize unnecessary prodigality financially and temporally. Different ranks of academic training would open up different opportunities, but do not accumulate as the more specialized perspectives and opinions gained from higher degrees would lose some opportunities in positions that favors an all-round considerations spanning all sub-fields of bromatology.
The undergraduate degree cannot teach you everything that you need to know in the field, because of the complexity of food and associated systems which leads to an excess of bromatology information, fast transition and advancement speed of bromatology information and the significant amount of bromatology information remaining unsolved. However, it gives you a solid grounding in this field with specialized perspectives and opinions that can be applied to all other aspects in bromatology.
As a bromatology graduate, your role involves specializing in a range of sub-topics in all bromatology sub-fields in one position, involving all of consulting, management, practical and basic research. Postgraduate diploma degree also provides similar pathways but the macro-specialized coursework may provide advantages in certain industry in the bromatology field, such as dairy or nutraceutical industry.
As a bromatology professional postgraduate (dietetics, food safety, food engineering), you macro-specialize in a range of sub-topics in one bromatology sub-field, involving management and basic research but concentrates on consulting or practical, depending on the degree.
As a bromatology research postgraduate (postgraduate honors, bromatology research masters), you will also macro-specialize in a range of sub-topics in one bromatology sub-field, but centralizes on intermediate level research in addition to management, consulting and practical.
As a bromatology research doctorate, you supra-specialize in one sub-topic in one sub-field in positions that requires practical and consulting but focuses on advanced level research and management.
Without bromatologists, the world would not have physical, social and economic access to a satisfactory range of food and food derived products that are safe, healthy and palatable at all times, to fulfill individual dietary preferences for an active healthy lifestyle. The bromatology related decisions should be considered thoroughly before pursuing different degrees to comply with your career directions. Higher degrees act as an access to macro- and supra- specialized pathways in bromatology but are disadvantageous in certain positions requiring a more wholesome perspective.
The previous reply, was my perceptions of this field.
And I agree with you, as food scientists, it is our responsibility to promote to people what we do and why are so important.