By the end of this lesson, you should be able to:

  1. Define food
  2. Identify and list various components that make up the food we eat
  3. Discuss the importance and benefits of understanding the science of food
  4. Identify individuals and professionals who are interested, or should be interested in understanding the science of food, and why their understanding of the science is essential to what they do
  5. Define food science
  6. List various food science careers and associated job responsibilities

Lesson Summary 

  1. According to the Food Drug and Cosmetics (FD & C) Act (21 CFR 321), food is defined as any (1) articles used for food or drink for man or other animals, (2) chewing gum, and (3) articles used for components of any such article. This means that anything generally called “food” by the common use of the term is food, along with drinks (including beer and water) and chewing gum. Also any item that is incorporated into food during its preparation as a food ingredients, is also classified as food. An example would be cooking oil. Iron tablet and medication tablets, and such items are not food but are nutrient supplements and drugs respectively, as defined by the FD & C Act. Animals such as dogs, horses and insects, although they are food in other cultures are not classified as food in the United States since they are not generally consumed here.  
  2. Food is beyond stuff we put in our bodies to give use nutrients and energy. You may also consider food to be complex biological systems consisting of many components which we will learn about in this course. These may include: water, proteins, carbohydrates, fats and oils, vitamins, minerals, pigments, flavors, toxins, enzymes, and other compounds known as phytochemicals that are essential for health.
  3. Individuals who need to know about the science of food include:
    • Health professionals e.g. doctors, nurses, nutritionists and dietitians
      • To advise patients on how food impacts their diseased condition and health
      • To use nutritional approaches in helping patents to improve their health
    • Food service operators and chefs
      • To create tasty and attractive foods for customers
      • To prevent food spoilage and keep food safe  
    • Food manufacturers and food scientists
      • To produce a variety of foods to meet consumer needs such as need for healthy and tasty food, convenience, and low price
    • Anyone who prepares food for others
      • To prevent food contamination and foodborne disease outbreaks
    •   All consumers 
      • To make healthy food choices
  4. Food Science is the study of the physical, chemical and biological make up of food. An understanding of food science helps us to better understand how to keep food safe, prevent food deterioration, and meet consumer needs such as health, taste, low price, and convenience  
  5. Food Scientists are professionals who work to ensure that the food that is produced meet both the needs of consumers and/or the businesses they work
  6. Food Scientists generally have a degree in food science but may also be trained in others areas such as chemistry, biology, nutrition, and engineering. They may not necessarily have the title “Food Scientist”. Titles may vary depending on their area of specialization e.g.:
    • Product Development Specialist: Designs and develops new food products based on consumer needs
    • Food Microbiologist: Evaluates food and the processing environment to make sure they are free from microorganisms that could cause food spoilage and illness  
    • Food Chemist: Alter the chemical makeup of food to make them taste better such as developing new flavors and artificial sweeteners
    • Production Manager: Managers the food processing operation to make sure that the process is running smoothly and efficiently
    • Quality Control Technician: Conducts quality tests on food to make sure that customer specifications are met
    • Food Safety Specialist: Manages food processing operation to make sure that all safety requirements are met according to government regulations, company policy and customer expectations
    • Food Inspector: Works with government agencies such as the FDA and USDA to monitor food production in order to verify that food manufacturers are keeping the law as it relates to food safety and other government laws and regulations for food production  
  7. Food scientists find employment mainly in food manufacturing but may also work for large fast food chains such as McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Burger King. In these facilities they are mainly responsible for developing and designing new food products and processes and ensuring that quality and safety of the food is maintained. They may also work in government as researches addressing challenging problems and issues such food safety, packaging, and genetically modified food (GMO). They may be regulatory food inspectors, working with government to ensure that the food supply is safe. Others are consultants working on their own, or educators teaching in colleges and universities.

Key Definitions

  1. Food: (1) articles used for food or drink for man or other animals, (2) chewing gum, and (3) articles used for components of any such article.
  2. Food Science: A study of the physical, chemical and biological make up of food in order to better understand how to keep food safe, prevent deterioration, and meet consumer needs such as health, taste, convenience and low price.  

Reference: Blake S. B. (2017). Nutrition and You, 4th Edition. Hoboken, NJ: Pearson. 

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Courtney Simons
Courtney Simons
Author, Dr. Courtney Simons has a Bachelor of Science in Food Science and a Ph. D. in Cereal Science from North Dakota State University.