Food is one of the basic needs of humanity. Everyone needs food. No wonder there is an entire industry working for better production and preservation of food. Behind the scenes this industry has slowly and steadily become the backbone of the economies and has carried humanity forward. Food Technology is the application of food science in manufacturing safe, wholesome and nutritious food products; it is the application of science and technology to the treatment, processing, preservation and distribution of food. In a slightly broader perspective it deals with developing new methods and systems for keeping food products safe, resistant to the threat of natural problems like bacteria. The field is pretty old and research has been going on for decades. India is one of the largest producers of consumable food stuffs in the world. Hence, need for processing is on the increase, consequently new technology in food processing and preservation is the need of the hour. Increase in demand for packaged, processed and ready to eat food has made the food technology industry more integral over the last few years. Food technologists are involved in a wide variety of activities associated with providing nutritious food. They study the chemical, physical and microbiological makeup of the food. The food is processed, preserved, packaged and stored according to the specifications by Food Authorities and Health Welfare departments. From the early beginning of my career, after passing Matriculation from JKBOSE, there was a general and mandatory perspective from the family and societal point of view, if a person who has scored more than 350 plus marks, he/she will opt to either be a doctor or an engineer with the motive of public service. It was a sort of hierarchical and standard setup after shuffling on the basis of merit obtained in 10th class. Those students who scored below 300 were suggested by experienced relatives and society to take up commerce, arts and other streams. Even though the thinking for me proved to be very impractical as my parents too were of the opinion that he will be a doctor likewise most of my cousins were successful in becoming Doctors, Engineers. The point of quoting here myself is to make and anecdote in better understanding for people. Even though other streams are equally tough like science varying from person’s interest, mind-set, intelligence, efficiency of mind and grasping power. Now with the advancement of technological educational setup and new educational policy across the country, Students and educationists have switched over from pen/paper to tablets/mobile phones for search of knowledge, be it delivering lectures through e-classes via internet based platforms, viz Google meet, zoom, cisco webex etc. Internet has played a pivotal role in making this model successful. The need of the hour starts from the very beginning after passing 10th standard, the selection of subjects for better future. It is mandatory for every parent to ask his child for the choice of subjects as per their interest and speciality. As a matter of fact I being a food technologist will advocate the need for introduction of the same at +2 level due to the vast and diverse nature of the subject. Recently School education department have initiated the introduction of various new subjects at +2 and +3 levels viz Biochemistry, Biotechnology, Microbiology, Management studies and other allied subjects. As far as previous trend is concerned Medical and Non-Medical subjects were generalised option for students to choose for becoming an engineer or doctor with the only difference of mathematics in Non-Medical and biology in Medical streams. The question to ponder upon here is why can’t a person be doctor with Microbiology, Biochemistry as one of the subjects in +2 level or Food safety officer/ Food Engineer with food technology as one of the subject in +2 level. There has been a significant buzz around the Biological Sciences field because of their exciting and dynamic nature, and direct implications on the human life. Medical Science might seem to be the most popular branch within the Applied Biology domain. But, the field of Food Science and Agriculture is also gaining huge popularity of late. The field is very broad and interdisciplinary. There is a need to create awareness about the same among the common masses who have just passed or about to pass their 10th standard. Before that Government should also create a platform for students to opt the other available options. Let us analyse the facts why students can think of opting food technology as subject after Matriculation exams.
Food science is the branch of applied sciences that combines the fundamentals of biochemistry, physical sciences and chemical engineering to study the physical, chemical and biological nature of food items. In simple words, food science (or food technology) deals with the manufacturing, processing, treatment, preservation, and distribution of food. The ultimate objective of food science is to understand the principles of food processing and to improve the food quality for the general public. Whatever food item (especially packaged ones) you come across in the supermarket (or retail store), has had some contributions from a food scientist or food technologist. Though Food Science and Technology and Food Engineering are very overlapping, there are few subtle differences. I am not going to get into too many details on this. But, I would like to provide the following illustrations:
Food Technology: Food science is the study of the physical, biological, and chemical makeup of food; the causes of food deterioration; and the concepts underlying food processing. Food scientists and technologists apply scientific disciplines including chemistry, engineering, microbiology, and nutrition to the study of food to improve the safety, nutrition, wholesomeness and availability of food. Depending on their area of specialization, food scientists may develop ways to process, preserve, package, and/or store food according to industry and government specifications and regulations. An example like burning wood produces heat, water, and carbon dioxide. Heat denatures proteins in food.
Food Engineering: Food engineering is one of the most multidisciplinary fields in engineering. It combines engineering principles with other fields like microbiology, physical sciences, chemistry and encompasses everything from machines used in the manufacturing plant to storage systems on transport trucks. Likewise and example it deals Building a fireplace and chimney makes it easier to cook with fire without filling the room with smoke.
From now on we will take both the disciplines as one broad field – Food Science & Technology.
Need of Food Science & Technology?
Food is essential for all forms of life; and humans need food for survival. Like shelter, clothes, education and healthcare, food is also a basic necessity for mankind. Majority of the food items are biological in origin. The process of harvesting, processing, distribution, storage and preparation is quite complex. Understanding the process, and solving various problems during the whole process, requires broad-based knowledge and training. Food scientists are responsible for making safe and nutritious food along with innovative packaging, and that also in abundance. Thus, Food Scientists allow us to make the best use of our food resources and minimize waste of resources. There has been a tremendous evolution of food system worldwide, thanks to food science and technology. Processed food items are more convenient to consume, and more importantly can be more tasty and healthy as well. For example, raw milk could be very harmful if you consume as it is. You need to boil it (to remove pathogens) and then consume. Besides, the shelf-life is also short. In contrast, the pasteurized milk (e.g. Mother Dairy) is safe and has got longer shelf-life. Besides, milk can be processed to produce cheese, yogurt, butter, cream etc. For curious folks here is an article on pasteurized milk versus raw milk. Another idea behind processed food is to enhance the compliance of few vital elements. There are quite a few kids who do not want to consume milk (contains various vital nutrients important for growth) vegetable or fruits. Hence the food science gave us health drinks (rather brands) like Horlicks, Boost, Bournvita, Complan etc. They might not contain same nutrient value as proper milk, fruits and vegetables. But, kids do tend to drink them as they taste better; besides those brands are being endorsed by the kids’ favourite action heroes Some of the best examples (products) of food science and technology that we come across in our daily life are:
Frozen Food, Canned Food, Snacks & Fast Food (chips, fries, pizza, burger, pasta etc.), Microwave Meal, Ready-To-Eat Meals, Bottled and Packaged Milk (long-life, skimmed, semi-skimmed etc), Baby Food, Low Fat Butter, Chocolate, Yogurt, Coffee (Instant and Filter),Cereals (including cereal bars), Packaged Juice (Fruit and Vegetable), Aerated Drinks (Cola), Energy Drinks (Gatorade, Red Bull), Beer, Wine and other alcoholic beverages.
Demand of Food Science & Technology Professionals
Relatively Food Science is still a very new discipline, and it is growing due to rapid urbanization and lifestyle changes worldwide. Being a branch of applied sciences, Food Science is very multi-disciplinary in nature, just like Biomedical Science, Pharmacy or Translational Science. Food Science involves chemistry (organic, inorganic and physical), biochemistry, microbiology, nutrition, chemical and process engineering. The holy grail of food science lies within the understanding of the chemistry and biochemistry of food components like proteins, carbohydrate, fats, minerals, vitamins and water. So, the field needs highly qualified and trained Food Scientists. Due to advancements in technology and our hectic daily life, there is an increasing demand for easy to prepare (e.g. Maggi, frozen pizza) and easy to consume food items (e.g. ready-to-eat meals). Apart from quality, factors like safety and nutrition value also need to be kept in mind. Therefore, there is a growing market demand for more advancements and sophistication in the field of food science and technology globally.
In Jammu and Kashmir itself from the last one decade there has been an increasing trend in the number of new food business setups be it Dairy Industry, Bakery Industry, Meat and Meat Products, Packaged Drinking water, Pickles, Sweets, Confectionary, Dry fruits, Apple Jams, Instant Mixes for parties, Spices and the list goes on. In all these food industries there might be some food technologist for quality control, who is working to ensure distribution of safe and wholesome food at your doorsteps. FSSAI has mandated Food and Drugs Department in ensuring the implementation of FSSA Act, 2006. The department has been working actively from past few years in making all the initiatives of FSSAI successful. In fact there is a need for creation posts related to Food Safety in every district as per the population majorly in Departments concerning Public health and Family welfare, Municipalities. A strong workforce of young Food Technologists will prove fruitful in ensuring the safety of foods for public welfare. Overall economic set-up of a country would accelerate by a strong and dynamic food processing sector. Furthermore, food processing sector provides vital linkages and synergies between industry and agriculture, and also immediate potential for growth and employment has been identified in this sector. Our Indian food processing sector has also experienced expansion during last five decades, starting with a handful of facilities, which were mainly operating at a domestic or cottage level.
Education & Training for a Career in the Food Industry:
Ideally Students need to have Physics, Chemistry, and Biology (PCB) combination in your 10+2, and may be Mathematics as well. At Bachelors level, ideal courses are 3-year or 4-year degree courses. Food Science and Technology can be one of the best alternatives at +2 or +3 level. Other alternative courses can be Biotechnology, Microbiology, Biochemistry, Bio resources, Organic Chemistry, Chemical/Process Engineering, etc. To have a career in Research & Development, Quality Control and Quality Assurance, students can continue the course in graduation up to Masters or Doctoral level. The advantage of doing so will make a student master in the subject from early beginning of his academic career.
The food industry is one of the largest in the world. People will never stop to eat (essential for survival). Hence, it will be in demand always, and recession-proof. You can choose any role within the food industry – behind the desk or in the lab. You can choose any function – R&D, Manufacturing, Quality Control, Sales & Marketing, Teaching and Consulting within the Government, Industry or Academics. With an increasing pace of life, people are getting aware about diet and nutrition. Rapid change in one’s lifestyle results in raising the number of opportunities for food technologists in the country. There are various roles and responsibilities in the Food Technology department as food technologists, food packaging managers, food scientists, and quality control officer, etc. A student may join any large industry as a fresher food technologist and work for several departments for years. An experienced person can change their line like, e.g. a Quality Assurance person may switch to the position of food inspector or value control examiner, where he checks products coming from manufacturing lines and analyses their side effects and cause. Research and Development aspirant will promote his career to research specialists or food scientists where one research about various components such as preservatives, colour and nutritious value of the food. One will get an opportunity to work with the Food and Drug Administration of India, FSSAI, NIFTEM, CFTRI, FICCI, QCI, Tea Board, Spice Board, AGMARK, BIS and many more organizations where specialists regularly work in a lab to enhance the quality and make better health of the nation. After Completion of Masters or Doctoral level Food technologist can go in Academics viz School education, Higher Education, Technical Education and so on any posts related to food safety. There remains always a flaw as far as system of recruitments is concerned in Jammu and Kashmir which is very important from Policy making point of view, for those persons who set the eligibility criteria for recruitment of the posts related to food science, viz merging of general subjects viz Bachelors/Masters in Chemistry, Agriculture, Veterinary, Forestry, Botany, Industrial Chemistry, seed technology and others as it is totally illogical for a person to compete in the subject which he has never studied during his academic career. One of the best examples to windup and end my argument here is same as a student of bachelors in food technology applying for the post of Medical Officer/ Surgeon without having a degree in MBBS.