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Why study food science and technology?

A degree in Food Science or Technology can offer many exciting career options - here are just a few of them

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Food is at the centre of human life: we need it to survive, in many cultures it is central to socialising, and eating is something the vast majority of people don’t just do because they need to, but because they actively enjoy it. Unsurprisingly, this makes food a massive industry. Think about it: how far can you walk from your front door without encountering a café, restaurant or supermarket? In the UK alone, the food industry is the biggest private sector employer, employing over 3.8 million people – 14% of all UK employment! From Burger King to cordon bleu, the stuff we eat is big business.


“There is no love sincerer than the love of food.”

- George Bernard Shaw


But what does it take to get food to your plate, whether at home or in a restaurant? If you want to understand the process that takes food from the field, factory or rice paddy to your digestive system (and what happens once it's there...), a Food Science / Technology degree will be perfect for you.


What can you do with a degree in Food Science / Technology?


There might be a misconception that studying a degree related to food is for those who wish to become chefs or work within the catering industry. Of course, if you do want to become a chef, studying a food related course will help you in your career, but it is by no means essential, whereas the options for Food Science / Technology graduates are far wider reaching. In fact, you don’t even need to be a good cook to study Food Science / Technology!


This diversity is reflected in the variety of Food Science / Technology courses available to study, so to help you choose a course that might reflect your particular interests and future goals, we've matched them up with potential career paths you may be interested in pursuing after you graduate.



Ensuring the food we eat is safe



If you have never experienced food poisoning before, you really don’t want to; if you have, you’ll never want to again. Luckily, to lower your chances of being struck down by food induced illness there are professionals employed to ensure the standards of food safety and quality. This is a very serious job, typically in the public sector: people’s health, even lives, are at stake, and being able to correctly identify risks of contamination as well as the conditions necessary to avoid it requires an in-depth understanding of food safety standards, and the science that defines these standards.


Due to the serious nature of ensuring food hygiene standards, the requirements placed on businesses preparing or serving food are enshrined in law, and those employed to enforce these standards – usually Food Safety Inspectors or Environmental Health Inspectors – have the ability to decide the fate of any business which fails to meet adequate standards. As such, a large part of the job involves travelling to restaurants, cafes, pubs, bars, anywhere premises that prepares or serves food, and checking to ensure that standards are met: inspecting the environment in which food is stored and prepared, the condition of the food, the working practices of those preparing the food, and ensuring there is a food safety management in system in place. In effect, Food Safety Inspectors are the police men and women of the food industry.


If this is a role you believe you would be suited to, a course like Queen’s University Belfast’s Food Quality, Safety and Nutrition BSc (Hons) would be an excellent first step. Designed to develop a “knowledge and understanding of three key areas in relation to food production and consumption” in students:


  • Food Quality: “… the 'fitness for purpose' of our food in terms of appearance (e.g. colour and surface qualities, texture, flavour and odour) and how these can be improved.”
  • Food Safety: “… the physical, microbiological and chemical aspects of our food, which may be harmful to human health and how these can be minimised.”
  • Nutrition: “… the nutrient supply from foods necessary to support the human body in health and during ill health throughout all life stages.”


Making the food we eat more interesting



The comical American celebrity chef Guy Fieri is famous for his phrase ‘Welcome to Flavourtown’, but how do we make food taste great? Only a few centuries ago, the diet of an average man or woman across most of the world was incredibly basic, and very bland. For most people, exciting flavours were a rare luxury. Now our supermarkets are filled with exotic spices, sweets and chocolates to suit all tastes, and an ever-growing array of products to feast on. In this market, companies need their products to stand out, to be more than ‘just food’ and something that consumers desire. Having specialists in flavour creation development is a great way to do this, and this is where flavour chemists (or simply flavourists) come in.


Just as perfumists create new scents in laboratories, flavour chemists use chemistry to mimic natural flavours, accentuate existing ones, or create something entirely new for our taste buds to experience. A key part of the job is not simply understanding the chemistry behind flavour, but having an excellent sense of taste: after all, you’ll be creating something you want people to enjoy.


To become a flavour chemist, a Food Science / Technology course which focuses on product development is ideal. One such courses is the Food Science (New Product Development) BSc (Hons) at London South Bank University, in which students “explore the creative and technical aspects of food product development and gain hands on practical skills in this exciting and rapidly expanding area of food technology.”


Making sure what we eat is good for us



There’s more to food than great taste, though, of course: it’s vital to ensure the healthy reproduction of the human race. Humans need food that sustains them, and this requires nutrients. Here are three different but related career paths you might be interested in the interrelation of food and health.


  • Nutritionists advise on the effects of food and nutrition on health, however being a nutritionist is not a recognised professional position. This means, for example, that while a nutritionist can work with healthy people advising them on their diets, if a nutritionist is to work with an ill or hospitalised patient, they have to be supervised by a dietitian. Nutritionists often work on a freelance basis, for example setting up their own business, but can be employed by public or private bodies, and there are voluntary regulatory bodies nutritionists can join to guarantee their expertise, professionalism and experience.
  • Dietitians are professionally qualified to “assess, diagnose and treat dietary and nutritional problems at an individual and wider public-health level”, according to the BDA, Association of UK Dietitians, the professional body of dietitians in the UK. This means that dietitians are regulated by law and required to abide by a code of ethics, the title ‘dietitian’ is also protected by law. Dietitians can work with everybody, from perfectly healthy individuals seeking to improve their diet for personal reasons, to the chronically ill who have dietary requirements that will improve their standard of living.
  • Nutritional Therapists usually work on a private basis, advising people on ways to improve their health through dietary means, taking an individual, case by case basis for each patient. Like nutritionist, nutritional therapist is not a title protected by law, however there are a range of professional bodies that nutritional therapists can join to guarantee their professionalism.


If any of these careers interest you, Food Science / Technology courses with an emphasis on nutrition are very common. An example is the Bachelor of Food and Nutrition Science at the University of Adelaide in Australia. This course “teaches students … the skills to identify and develop the next nutritional trends” and the “importance of developing a sustainable, nutritious and healthy food supply”, and includes a “placement in the food industry or a nutrition/health related organisation.”




If any of these career paths interest you, you can begin your search for the perfect Food Science / Technology course here.

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