A food technologist is a science and engineering expert who researches and develops strategies to process, package, and safely distribute food products. Some professionals work in laboratories to investigate the physical and chemical properties of foods, while others are employed by processing plants to design new production techniques. In addition, a food technologist may apply his or her specialized knowledge to the development of better quality-control programs, shipping methods, and government standards. Ultimately, technologists ensure the foods citizens consume are safe and nutritious.
Food technology is often described as the practical application of food science, the study of plant and animal products consumed by humans. A food technologist uses the principle findings of scientific research to determine how to improve a product's nutritional value and extend its shelf life. Experts who work in research laboratories conduct experiments with different types of additives, preservatives, and packaging materials. They set recommendations for storage temperatures and preparation techniques to help consumers avoid eating bad food. Additionally, some researchers are involved in studies to create dishes and recipes that are generally healthier than existing options.
Many food technologists are involved with improving manufacturing strategies and quality-control standards. Professionals who work at processing plants apply their knowledge of engineering to design more efficient systems and equipment to prepare food products for distribution. They implement quality-control guidelines and supervise workers to make sure products are not contaminated when they leave facilities.
A food technologist who works for a government agency might be responsible for inspecting farms and processing plants to ensure compliance with sanitation laws. He or she may also become involved in creating surveys, publications, and materials to improve the public's awareness of issues surrounding the consumption of food. A food technologist might help to create better nutritional guidelines or advise farmers and ranchers on how to improve the quality and quantity of their goods.
A bachelor's degree in food or agricultural science is usually sufficient to find a food technologist job in a manufacturing plant, though an advanced degree generally is required to work as a researcher or government official. Many new workers decide to pursue voluntary certification from respected national organizations in order to improve their credentials and their chances of finding jobs. Technologists usually begin their careers as assistants so they can gain practical, supervised experience in the field. With several months or years of training, successful workers are given more responsibilities and allowed to conduct independent research.