When a plate of mouthwatering biryani is served to you, the last thing that comes to your mind would be the periodic table. However, it is important for you to realise that the chemical composition of food is an integral part of a dish.
A layman might say that when the biryani is not up to the mark, it is because some chemicals were present in it in abundance; whereas, there was a death of some others. However, the actual story runs deeper than this. This is what is dealt with by a food chemist.
Speaking at a very generic manner, it is fair to say that food is nothing but a combination of chemicals. When they get into our body, certain chemical reactions take place. Now the way the food reacts with the body is something that has to be analysed at length. This is done by professionals who call themselves food chemists.
These people study the manner in which food interacts with the human body at the most basic level. They then analyse the results and the same is handed out to doctors and dieticians who then use their recommendations.
Importance Of Food Chemists In India
Speaking in the Indian context, these days urban adults are experiencing a rapid shift wherein they want to eat healthy food. Now in the cities and other urban areas, it is not possible for an individual to get farm fresh fruits and vegetables all the time. It is at this point that food chemists come into play.
These people discover and refine production processes like pasteurisation. This not just brings down the risk of food-borne illness but also makes the goodness of rural India available in the cities. Taking it a step further, the frozen fruits and vegetables that are found in the shelves of all major Indian supermarkets owe their colour, texture and allure to food chemists.
Another interesting point to be noted here is the fact that India is a land of diversity. Thus, the food items that are available here are also diverse in nature. In such a situation a certain amount of experimentation is allowed wherein cuisines from a certain land are a fusion with that from other lands.
Although a preparation of this sort is the primary duty of a chef, most chefs these days seek the expert guidance of food chemists. All of this makes the role of a food chemist all the way more important, particularly in the Indian context.
Courses In Food Chemistry
• Food Processing
There are regions in India that produce a surplus amount of a particular fruit or vegetable. To make matters worse, sometimes these products are seasonal in nature (like the oranges of Nagpur or the apples of Himachal). At such times, the only way to gain maximum benefits out of these and ensure that there is no wastage would be by mastering the art of food processing.
Food processing is a course that is offered at an undergraduate as well as postgraduate level. The only notable thing here is the fact that one needs to have a background in chemistry to be able to pursue this course.
• Food Engineering
These people are employed in the food manufacturing sector. For this, there are specialised diploma programs that one can pursue after obtaining a graduate degree in any discipline. For those looking for a long-term commitment in this field, a bachelor's degree in zoology, botany, biochemistry and biotechnology would be the stepping stone for a long and fulfilling career.
As of 2018, there are a number of universities in the country offering diploma in food engineering. While some of these courses are part-time in nature, the rest are full-time. There are a number of government initiatives to encourage the participation of people in such programs. For people who cannot afford the fees of these programs, there are a number of scholarship programs available.
• Nutrition And Food Science
This is one area of study wherein students are taught to apply the combined knowledge of chemistry and microbiology in the preservation, storage and distribution of food. For this, students from any discipline are eligible for the bachelor's degree. For the master's degree program one needs to have a bachelor's degree in nutrition and food science or chemistry.
Some universities consider students with a bachelor's degree in home science to be eligible for this course. The job prospects after pursuing this particular course are very good and students are often seen bagging very high-paying jobs in the industry.
Career Prospects In Food Chemistry
Depending on the degree that you have and the amount of experience that you have in this field, there are a lot of career opportunities for you. Graduates in this field are often seen to be technical specialists or quality control managers in food manufacturing and food processing industries.
For those passionate about a career in the government sector, there are diverse roles for people with a degree in food chemistry. Some of these roles include that of inspectors, laboratory managers and extension workers. As per government regulations, the set-up of any manufacturing industry requires the presence of all such people.
Hence, there is no dearth of job opportunities there. Other than the aforementioned roles, international development agencies hire a number of experts in this field. There are also a number of private laboratories offering consultative and technical services. These services have many takers within the food market.
To be able to bring such services to the public, the private laboratories require the assistance of trained and qualified food chemistry experts. Thus, if you are someone who holds a degree in this field and has a deep passion for food, finding yourself without work should be the least of your concerns.