Availability of Food
Colin Dennis, Ph.D., Previous Director-General, Campden BRI, explains how access to a variety of safe and nutritious foods would be affected in a world without food science.
Food science makes it possible for the majority of the world’s current population of 7 billion to have much greater access to an abundant, diverse food supply that is largely safe, flavorful, nutritious, convenient and less costly than ever before. Food science is becoming even more important as the world population expands. Within the next 50 years, it is expected to be over 9 billion.
An IFT Scientific Review: "Feeding the World Today and Tomorrow: The Importance of Food Science and Technology " published in Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, summarizes the scientific and technical achievements that are responsible for several of the attributes of our food supply that many may take for granted:
Drying, canning, preservation, and refrigeration (including chilling and freezing), are all examples of food processing techniques that help keep food edible after harvested for extended periods of time. Alternative preservation technologies, such as high pressure processing, have been developed during the past 15 – 20 years to meet consumers’ growing demand for safe, fresh and highly nutritious foods.
Taste, aroma, texture, color and nutrient content all contribute to the quality of food. In most cases, these attributes begin to decline as soon as raw food materials or ingredients are harvested or collected. Processes adapted from food science help to minimize this decline.
Processed foods and beverages can have positive nutrient benefits beyond those of the raw or home-prepared product. Some processed products such as frozen vegetables, are often a better value for the consumer.
The food system has drastically changed over the years from one centered around family food production on individual farms and home food preservation to the modern system of today where it’s possible to walk into a grocery store and buy food that requires little or no preparation.
Rickets, once considered an extremely common disorder of childhood, is caused by a deficiency of vitamin D. Fortification of dairy and other products have virtually eliminated this disease. Fortification of foods such as cereal, bread and pasta with folic acid, a B vitamin that helps make healthy new cells, has helped reduce the risk of serious birth defects.
Commercial food manufacturing operations are more efficient in the conversion of raw materials into consumer products than home processing and preparation. Through life-cycle assessments of the environmental impacts of the food system, waste-management practices are being refined and improved further.
Food processing is designed to remove health hazards associated with microbial pathogens. Pasteurization of milk is just one of many examples of processes that reduce the risk of foodborne illness and extend shelf life.