Maybe you are the type of person who, upon discovering that the bag of crisps you just opened contains nothing but crisp-crumbs, you get frustrated.
You might even think “There’s got to be a better way to package these so that they aren’t reduced to crumbles!”.
Would you be surprised to know that crisp bags are pumped full of nitrogen for that very purpose?
In the food processing plant, after the crisps are fried or baked, they are salted and/or flavoured, inspected and then packaged. Just before each bag is sealed it is treated to a puff of nitrogen.
That nitrogen serves three purposes:
1. it removes most of the oxygen, prolonging the product’s shelf life
2. it prevents spoilage: bacteria need oxygen to live but the nitrogen displaces the oxygen
3. the puffed-up bag acts like a bubble, protecting the crisps and (mostly) keeping them whole.
So now you know: if you want fresh, relatively unbroken crisps, you should select the puffiest bag!
This cost-effective, ingenious way of preserving crisps actually has a name: modified atmosphere packaging, or MAP.
MAP no doubt originated in a food science lab, quite possibly devised by a clever food technologist. Probably of the same ingenious vein that you are.
If you’ve always had a soft spot for science and are possessed of a deep and abiding love for food, there is a career meant especially for you: food technologist.
Food technologists play a vital role in the food industry. They ensure food safety in processing plants and make sure that food quality is not sacrificed to efficiency in production.
Food technologists may have a hand in designing food processing plants as well as food packaging – but not necessarily labelling. That is another department altogether.
However, the nutritional values and the ingredients list that appears on the label is the purview of the food scientist.
Your Superprof intuits that you already have an interest in this field.
Perhaps you’d like to find out how you too could join the ranks of food technologists currently working on new, environmentally-friendly packaging and transportation methods for our food supply.
As always, we are here to help. Let us now outline the steps you need to take to become a food technologist.
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People have been preserving food for centuries without the benefit of higher education.
That doesn’t mean that, if you know all about curing meats, making sausage and bottling vegetables as your grandparents and maybe your parents did, you are automatically qualified to seek employment as a food technologist.
The nature of the job and especially aspects of food safety and quality demand that there must be intensive study devoted to the subject.
As an example: if you are a food technologist working in a food processing plant, your job would be to make sure the food is properly handled, does not get contaminated and meets all of the safety and quality standards set by the government.
It might seem a bit daunting a proposition when you think about the possibility of people being made sick over a bad batch of tinned fish or bagged lettuce a food technologist approved for shipment to supermarkets all over the country and even abroad.
However, if you study well, earn your degree and get the right on-the-job training, you needn’t worry that such a scenario will come to pass on your watch.
Indeed, you will probably make sure that any food product sent out to the public meets the highest standards of food manufacturing safety.
We found the best food science and technology curricula at:
- London Metropolitan University
- University of Leeds
- University of Nottingham
- University of Surrey
- University of Reading
- University of Plymouth
- Glasgow Caledonian University
- Robert Gordon University Aberdeen
- Queen’s University Belfast
- Ulster University Northern Ireland
To gain admittance to any of these fine schools, you must have at least an ABB on your A-Levels.
If you anticipate sitting A-Levels next year, it would be a good idea to include a science component – either biology or chemistry to the selections you have already made.
Also, discover what subjects are covered in the food science technology curriculum.
Once you’ve been accepted into the food science degree programme of your choice, it is time to get cracking, and not just in your studies of dietetics, nutrition and food.
Several of the above-listed universities offer a work placement component that complements your studies.
The University of Reading, for instance, has an excellent work-study programme. You would spend a year working in a food manufacturing or processing plant; an opportunity that allows you to gain valuable work experience before receiving your undergraduate degree.
The downside is that it will take you four years to graduate instead of three... but think of the value that extra year adds to your studies: you will get to see firsthand the duties of a food technologist in a professional setting.
This is really the optimal way of getting your foot in the door of the food industry but there are others.
Once you are nearing the end of your studies, you may search online for food technology apprenticeships. You may also find guidance in your school’s career centre.
Discover the many ways you can train to become a food technologist.
Establish Your Network
It is not uncommon for alumni who have established themselves in the food production industry to return to their alma mater and offer soon-to-graduate students their first crack into the job market.
Nor would it be considered strange for you to visit your school’s career counselling centre to proclaim your availability and eagerness to work.
Possibly, such an alumnus may visit your school and host a lecture or an informal question and answer session about new food products under development, or advances in food research their company is working on.
It would be most beneficial for you to attend such events not just for your continuing development as a food technologist but possibly for future career opportunities.
At any rate, unless you intend to enrol in a graduate program, maybe to study food microbiology or biotechnology, it is a good idea to check in with your career counselling office; you never know what sage advice they may have for you.
Join the discussion: what distinguishes a food technologist from a food scientist?
Become a Member
Until the mid-twentieth century, food science was not a field of study one could pursue because it didn’t exist.
In 1955, the National College of Food Technology was established in the UK, which formulated a curriculum that was offered at four universities and one polytechnic school.
From these tentative beginnings, a national institute was formed to, among other objectives, promote food science and technology as a legitimate field of study deserving of recognition and funding.
By 1968, the Institute of Food Science and Technology had become incorporated, complete with Articles of Association, By-Laws and a Memorandum.
Today, the Institute of Food Science & Technology concerns itself with all aspects of food science and the technology used to produce and process food.
Using both science and technology, it pledges to provide the public with safe, healthy, nutritious food. That is their core mission but, to highlight the relevance and importance of food safety, they undertake to increase public awareness of what the organisation does and why they do it.
Besides educating the public about food science and nutrition, they emphasise the farm-to-table aspects of food production and their drive to improve every facet of the food supply, production and delivery chain.
Before the ink dries on the degree you worked so hard to earn, you should declare yourself a member of IFST.
You should know the Institute of Food Science & Technology is not a government body; indeed it operates independently of the government.
In 2007, the Charity Commission formally acknowledged the Institute of Food Science & Technology, granting it its charitable status.
Although our IFST is not overseen by the government, it has partnered with other similar concerns worldwide, such as the Institute of Food Technologists in the US and the International Union of Food Science and Technology.
In fact, our IFTS gave the European Union the impetus to form their European Federation of Food Science and Technology!
One of the best reasons to become a member of the Institute of Food Science & Technology is that they actively promote careers in science to younger students by hosting competitions and awarding prizes.
You may also attend their many conferences held throughout the year in various locations around the country. This would be an excellent chance to network; to get to know others in your field and possibly collaborate with them on a discovery project of your own.
And that’s not all! As a member, you could partake of their continuing education offerings.
Their Continuing Professional Development Program helps keep their members abreast of the latest developments in areas such as food engineering, human nutrition and food preservation.
So there you have it: where to find your undergraduate program, where to find help and networking opportunities and the one body who stands to help you advance as food scientists.
Now read our comprehensive overview of food science technology