The Missing Ingredient From Food Systems Change.

An alarming trend I noticed at the many food systems conferences I attended this year – many of the new people I meet, even though they work in food and in food systems organizations, do not know what food science is and how food science must be another tool in strengthening the food system. Do you know what a food scientist is and how what they do might strengthen the food system?

Food scientists need to know more about food systems
This food scientist needs to learn about food systems change so he can make products that will support a resilient and sustainable food system. Image from Pixabay.

I wrote an introduction to food science on my first blog. Since that time the Institute of Food Technologists has updated their definition of food science:

“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.”

As a food chemist who is interested in the changes in food during processing and storage, my research is covered by this definition. However, as a food safety consultant and someone who is interested in the larger picture of food system change, I see a whole lot missing. Even in the realm of science, this definition doesn’t include sensory science and the psychology and sociology of our food choices. If food scientists ignored that, we would have a problem with our food supply. 

Oh! Wait! 

We do have a problem with our food supply! Perhaps this is explained by the fact that food scientists ignore the psychological and sociological implications of their science

Food science can support food systems change by helping local food entrepreneurs produce sustainable food.
Food science can support food systems change by helping local food entrepreneurs produce sustainable food. Image by Robyn Wright from Pixabay

Do food scientists have a responsibility to make sure our food supply is of high quality and doesn’t make people and our planet ill? As shown by the definition of  food science from UC Davis the word “wholesome” is thrown around:

“Food Science is a convenient name used to describe the application of scientific principles to create and maintain a wholesome food supply.”

What does a wholesome food supply look like anyway? I’m not sure that I know TBH! There are lots of ideas of what a wholesome food supply would look like. Probably as many ideas as there are people on the planet.

Food scientists are varied and have many interests. Unlike chefs, we aren’t necessarily interested in making food to eat straight away, but mostly looking at the underlying principles that go into a food. Not all food scientists can cook or understand how our research affects the food on your plate. Others dissect their cooking to find out exactly what happened to get the food the way it is (I’m totally guilty)!! We are mostly interested in how food behaves and how it can be altered, for good and bad. 

A food scientist can definitely help you make a better, safer food product while remaining true to your values. Arrange a free food safety strategy session NOW! 

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