Food is an essential part of every living organism’s life. It gives us the necessary energy, and nutrients to grow, be healthy and active, and develop both physical and mental growth. Every living organism no matter how miniscule needs food in some form to sustain life. It can be either of plant or animal origin and contains essential nutrients like, protein, carbohydrate, fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals. These substance consumed are assimilated by the cells in the body in order to provide energy, assist in maintaining life and stimulate growth.
History tells us that the early humans were hunters and gatherers. The diets of the early hominins were quite similar to that of modern apes like for example a chimpanzee: an omnivorous diet consisting of fruits, leaves, barks, flower and meat. Researches also suggest that they also consumed hard food like nuts and seeds. Roots and tubers were also part of their diet. Invention of tools led to better hunting and meat and marrow became a major part of their diet. Discovery of fire added yet another dimension to the way food was consumed, the early humans learnt to cook. Cooked food also provided greater energy as it was easy to digest, and cooking might also be the reason for rapid increase of the brain size. Research also links to the development of salivary amylase, which breaks down starch. Starchy food was an important element in facilitating brain development.
With inventions of tools, discovery of fire people slowly started to settle down and started farming. Human beings abandoned food foraging for food production. Historians have often labeled the transition which happened around 10,000 B.C as the period of the first Agricultural Revolution, when the hunting and gathering society turned to stationary farming.
With the Agriculture Revolution of 18th century, food production took a completely different turn with new pattern of crop rotation, along with livestock utilization lead to better crop production. Different varieties of grains and vegetables and the ability to support more livestock lead to sufficient food on the plates and healthier people.
Since then we have seen lot of changes in the way food has evolved. With the surplus food came the need to store food for longer time. The earliest scientific research related to food technology concentrated on preserving food. With Agriculture Revolution there was enough surplus of food. There was a great need to preserve the surplus food. Plus as more and more urban areas developed it became necessary to transport food from one place to another without it getting spoiled. Early scientific research into food led to the method of canning process in the 1810 by Nicolas Appert. Though he himself wasn’t aware of the principle on which his technique worked but it had a major impact on the process of food preservation. Louis Pasture researched on spoilage of wine which led to him developing pasteurization, the process where milk and milk products are heated to destroy disease producing organism thus stalling food spoilage.
Since then food processing has become a highly multidisciplinary field which combines microbiology, applied physical sciences, chemistry and engineering for food industries. Food engineering revolves around agricultural engineering, mechanical engineering as well as chemical engineering principles for production of different types of food. Food engineering encompasses a gamut of activities. It is not just about food but it involves, food processing, modern machineries for food industry, packaging, manufacturing instrumentation, developing new products and processes. It also revolves around improving the quality of the food right from the fields to the processing units, ensuring that the nutritional value remains intact as well as protection to avoid any kind of contamination. It also works around transportation and storage of liquids for longer period of time, advance methods of heating, chilling and freezing of food for storage and preservation, new techniques in dehydration, thermal processing, liquid food concentration etc. Apart from these, enhancing shelf life, maintaining inventory through electronic indicators, modern packaging, waste management, cleaning and sanitation are also parts of food engineering.
What does it take to become a food engineer? Bachelor’s Degrees are available in food processing and similar fields like food science and technology. Food Process Engineers work as researchers and developers for new products and enhance existing ones. Or one can study to become a Food technologist.
The employment prospects of Food Engineer are excellent. There is a huge demand for Food Engineers and Food technologists and Food Scientist. The career options in Food Technology are;
1. Quality control supervisor
2. Food analyst
3. Food process engineer
4. Food regulatory affairs specialist
5. Product development manager / specialist
6. Sensory scientist
7. Food ingredient manager
8. Food microbiologist
9. Food chemist
10. Nutrition specialist
11. Fermentation scientist
12. Research Scientist
Food Engineering and Food Scientist is a very rewarding career. Lot of new development has taken place and there are many avenues to pursue. It is not just about creating new food or packaging. It has a deeper meaning to it with the huge global population to feed. One can dedicate his/her studies to find sustainable agriculture, ways to save the endangered species of flora and fauna, research on reducing contamination, work on zero wastage.
There are several colleges and Universities offering Under Graduate and Post Graduate courses in Food Engineering. One can also take advice from the Career counselors to get a sound idea about the courses. There are several Career Counselors that one can go to including Online Career Counseling as well.
Apart from these there are many Career Guide Services available online and one can go through those websites to get a good understanding of the Course. Many Career seminars also are held to help students select the course most suitable for them. The counseling also helps students understand their strengths and weaknesses and can work accordingly to better themselves.
One can log on to the links listed below which will provide one with a good understanding of the courses available and how to go about cracking the exam:
By: Madhuchanda Saxena
Posted By - Assistant Editor