Food Science and Food Technology

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Food science is more important than many of us realise. These are the scientists make sure our breakfast cereals are fortified with the right amounts of vitamins, minerals, and iron. They are  also the scientists working to ensure the safety and quality of food, along with its sustainable production, processing, and packaging.

Food processing and manufacturing are big business areas in Ireland. As a result, there are plenty of opportunities for graduates in Food Science and Food Technology.

Courses in Food Science or Food Technology combine theoretical science subjects with practical work experience. A career in this area is worth considering if both food and science interest you.

Education

There are a number of CAO options to choose from in food science. Degrees are available from UCC, UCD, UL, DIT, Waterford IT, and Letterkenny IT.

Food Science students gain a good grounding in general science subjects. These include Chemistry, Biochemistry, and Microbiology, before progressing to specialist Food Science topics. The specialist topics include Food Chemistry, Food Processing, Food Quality and Safety, Food Quality and Regulation, Nutrition and Food Microbiology. Students also gain practical experience, spending plenty of time in the laboratory. A work placement in local industry is usually undertaken.

Most courses also include additional subjects on the curriculum, These could be Communications, Information Technology, Accountancy, Management, and Marketing. These skills enhance the employability of graduates in the food industry.

Level 5 Certificates in Food Science are available from several further education providers. These programmes prepare students for work in roles. These range from the laboratory to the cottage food industry, or progression to higher level study.

The Work

There are many career options for food science and technology graduates, particularly in the agriculture industry. Many graduates are employed in dairy and meat factories; others work with the Department of Agriculture as produce inspectors, or as researchers with Teagasc. Other possibilities include the industries concerned with brewing, cereals, fruit and vegetables, confectionery and soft drinks, as well as jobs in food marketing and retail.

The appliance of science to food production is a particularly strong area for postgraduate study and research in Ireland. As a result, there are many opportunities in the Biotechnology, Food Science, and Agricultural Science areas.

Food scientists study the physical, microbiological, and chemical makeup of all types of food. They use their knowledge to develop more efficient means of food harvesting, processing, preserving, packaging, and storing.

Food scientists will usually specialise in a particular area as their careers progress. Some may concentrate on basic research, while others may work in areas such as production management, food quality, safety and law, new product development, nutrition, marketing, research, and processing technology.

Food technologists often work on the factory floor, assuring the day-to-day safety of the food produced. Other jobs that food technologists choose include product development and management; this could mean developing a recipe for mass-production as a microwave dinner.

Technical sales are another option – this involves liasing with clients, selling them your particular ingredient or product and explaining ‘the science bit’.

To succeed in a food science career, you need a certain aptitude for science and mathematics, as well as a strong interest in food.  Attention to detail, good teamwork, and strong communication skills will also serve you well.

Did you know?

Bananas contain the amino acid tryptophan which, once ingested, increases the body’s levels of serotonin – an effect similar to that of the anti-depressant Prozac.

Further Resources

Bord Bia

Food Safety Authority of Ireland

Teagasc


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