A World Without Food Science

This year there were 350 students in the entire United States that graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Food Science. It used to baffle me that so few people choose to enter into a field that is not only fun and interesting but is pretty much GUARANTEED job placement for life. But now I believe I have figured out why!

When is the last time you saw a food scientist on TV or in the media portrayed in a positive way? When is the last time a food company showed off their great food scientists to the world (not including the ads in food technology magazines that are created by and exclusively for food scientists). When is the last time a food scientist was nationally thanked for making the food supply safe, interesting and delicious?

How about never? There is absolutely no mention of food scientists because food manufacturers have decided it makes more sense to let the masses believe that all their food was prepared especially for them by silly rabbits, green giants, doughboys and a hamburger helper “hand”. While I can appreciate the need to lure in children and adults via the use of icons, would it hurt if the companies gave the food scientists just a little bit of publicity—if not to thank us for all our hard work but to at least promote the field in general by showing all that we can do? This would only help to generate interest and fill those emptying food science slots.

Well, actually it probably would hurt them because companies don’t want the masses to know that their food is *GASP* made by people who wear lab coats and studied science, because making food is an art and a craft not a science, right? Why would anyone want to create food in an organized safe and routine way? Much better to imagine that your cookies are being manufactured in a tree by elves or in aunt Jemima’s probably-not-HACCP-certified kitchen.

Considering the number of calls I get daily from recruiters begging me (and even offering me commission!) to help them find someone to fill this or that food science position, you would think that food companies would want to help promote the talent whom without they could not exist, and to help fill the empty positions all over the country.

I went to a Chicago section IFT dinner a few weeks ago and president John Ruff talked about the new and improved IFT (www.ift.org) website. There are some great links on the site to salary surveys, interviews with food scientists and educational opportunities. It was pointed out at the dinner that the website really preaches to the choir, and the only ones who go there are the ones who are already “in” the field. But then John showed us this chilling video, World Without Food Science™, a public education campaign created by the Institute of Food Technologists to generate awareness of the role that food science plays in ensuring a nutritious, safe and abundant food supply.

The video is chilling, but has a positive, upbeat ending that could inspire high school students to enter into this wide-open job market.

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About Intrepid Culinologist

The Intrepid Culinologist, aka Rachel Zemser, CCS, has one foot planted in the artisan soils of San Francisco and the other buried deep in the world of R&D, manufacturing and food science. She travels the world in search of food-related industry trade shows, media and press events, and "local" Bay Area experiences, trying to figure a way to bridge her two worlds and bring great food to the masses. She has a B.S. and M.S. in Food Science, a Culinary Arts degree, and 18 years of food-industry experience.
This entry was posted in Debunking False Propaganda!, Food Safety, IFT, Research and Development, The Daily Feeding, Videos and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to A World Without Food Science

  1. I was absolutely astonished by the number of B.S. graduates in food science last year. I had no idea that it was so few! That really puts it into perspective.

    I hope you know that you’ve gotten a great response to this article on the IFT Facebook page! I loved the tone of this post by the way. Made me laugh out loud a time or two, and ultimately I decided to write a response that should post on the IFTSA blog Science Meets Food early this week at sciencemeetsfood.org.

    Cheers!
    Emily Del Bel

    • Thanks Emily- Its crazy that so few people enter into our field— so many job opportunities and so few people who study it- there is a severe shortage! I also think all food scientists are underpaid – but that will be difficult to change by myself!

  2. Kelly Lang says:

    I teach culinary arts elective at a high school and I always push food science since it’s more stable than being a chef and besides…my daughter is a food scientist!

  3. Kelly- you should also let them know about the RCA- and Culinology- that way they can have the best of both worlds- technical food science stability with some creative fun from the culinary arts side.

  4. inahperalta says:

    I am a Food Science Student in the Philippines and I know how important food is to our country and I do hope that more people, especially the youth, would be aware of this campaign.

  5. Pingback: A World Without Food Science | The Intrepid Culinologist | plantlawyer

  6. Cena Burnoski says:

    Wow!!! That is crazy. Does that include the graduates from every semester? I am one who will graduate in December, so I suppose that would count for the 2013 number.

  7. Tamara says:

    I just wish Food Companies would value education more and industry experience less at least for entry level positions. I have a Master’s in Food Science and no Industry experience. I was active in my department, received a large variety of hands on experience in lab, and joined product development competition teams. I’ve been applying for jobs 4 months, sent over 80 job applications all over the US, and I have only received two callbacks. I’ve been noticing jobs I applied to a month ago being reposted, which means they haven’t been able to fill it and they haven’t bothered to see if perhaps with training (if I don’t have the exact qualifications they are looking for), I could be a good fit. I’m becoming really frustrated because I’ve read in several places that food science almost guarantees you a job, and that so far has been the opposite of my experience. I’ve inquired in a few places for internships, but they only take current students. Perhaps I am doing something wrong, but I certainly don’t know what else I can do. I can’t fake experience. I’ve even contacted some of my friends with industry experience that snagged a job in the company they had their internship and asked if they can pass on my resume, but so far no luck through that avenue either.

  8. Tom Siebertz says:

    Don’t be discouraged Tamara. The food industry experiences highs and lows just like any other industry. Right now is a fairly uncertain time for food companies due to many changing regulations, rising cost of raw materials and the weak economy. Not to mention one bad incident that goes viral can really hurt a company’s reputation and lower their bottom line. Location also plays into this well as some parts of the country are hotspots for food manufacturing. It’s true food companies want people with experience because its a very “hands on” field. Expect to get dirty.
    With that said, everyone has to start somewhere whether it’s volunteer work, internship work or working on the production line. My first job in the industry while I was going to school was to inspect blocks of fish all day. It took days to get the smell off my hands, but I gained valuable experience that helped me get my current job. Another thing that helped me move up in the field was networking with people, asking them how they got their job, attending IFT meetings, finding a mentor to help with resumes and applications. Above all, show your prospective employer how passionate you are. You don’t just want a job, but a lifelong career doing what you love. Please don’t give up hope! There are many opportunities in the field and I’m sure you will do fine when you find your niche.

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