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Food technology is the intersection between scientific innovation and consumable materials. Technological advances are constantly making it possible to produce foods more safely, more quickly, and at a lower cost than ever before. Scientists specializing in food chemistry are often commissioned to research a food production process and find ways to improve the overall consistency and stability of the final product. Products and methods created by food technology research often make their way into products for restaurant and even home use. Inventions in food science frequently inspire the food industry to move in new directions that keep its customers coming back for more.
Every step in food production, from the original source to consumption, is effected by the current state of food technology. Scientific developments have led to shorter growing seasons and increased yields for farmers and ranchers. Electronically controlled cooking equipment self-regulates to maintain uniform results for larger scale productions. Food additives and preservatives are often applied to industrially produced foods to extend their shelf life and improve palatability. Improvements in packaging and refrigeration technology keep food fresher longer to reduce waste and loss.
Molecular gastronomy is an innovative movement in the food industry that seeks to explore and adapt the abundance of available food technology. Food scientists and chefs study ingredients and their interactions, often on a microscopic level. Many food technologists seek to explore the properties of food and challenge the ways they are used and consumed. Similarities in the chemical and physical makeup of ingredients can lead a molecular gastronomist to create new food substitutions, preparations, and flavor combinations.
Ingredient ratios and preparation conditions are sometimes modified based on discoveries made through food technology research. Original products recipes have commonly been altered to meet the specifications of a niche consumer group. Light, low-fat, and vegetarian versions of many foods are made with specialized edible ingredients and equipment developed by food scientists. A variety of artificial sweeteners are used to replace sugar and lower the caloric content of industrially made and scientifically engineered foods.
The home cook takes advantage of food technology breakthroughs from the last century on a daily basis. Ovens, toasters, and microwaves are all products of food technology research that have been designed to make serving foods quicker, easier, and safer. New food technology innovations often draw upon food science discoveries from the past but apply them in more efficient and user-friendly configurations.