The ABC of food science in the UK

The production and distribution of food, including agriculture, fisheries and related services, is the largest and most important economic activity in the world.

The health and welfare of people everywhere depends on good agricultural yields and on the reliable storage, successful processing and safe handling of all types of food.

All of these activities, and many others, create a demand for well qualified and experienced specialists who can play their parts in the complex and increasingly sophisticated food supply system.

What Qualifications do I need to study Food Science & Technology?
Food Science & Technology are science based, so a good grounding in science subjects is the best preparation.

GCSEs, A’ levels, GNVQs or NVQ’s can all provide an appropriate starting point, while in some instances mature students can make good with relevant experience some of the shortfall in their qualifications.

In these days of multi-national companies and world wide trading, an additional language can be a useful bonus.

The Institute of Food Science & Technology
The Institute of Food Science & Technology (IFST) is the U.K's independent professional qualifying body for food scientists and technologists.

A levels
Most courses in food science and technology have a minimum requirement for two A levels (or equivalent AS levels) in science subjects chosen from chemistry, physics, biological science and mathematics.

Home economics is also accepted for some courses as well as computer science, economics, geology and zoology.

This involves some of the oldest food production techniques known to man. Fermented products like salami, yoghurt, cheese, olives and many other intriguing ethnic foods all owe their unique properties to biotechnology.

Biotechnologists need a sound knowledge of biochemistry, microbiology and process engineering and use their expertise in areas as diverse as brewing, antibiotic production, flavour synthesis and waste management systems.

You can study for BTEC in science (food science and food technology) at National and Higher National levels (Certificates & Diplomas) at schools and colleges all over the UK .

ABTEC National qualification is recognised by colleges and universities to be equivalent to A levels.

Civil Service
The Civil Service in the U.K provides major career opportunities for food scientists and technologists. Both the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food (MAFF) and the Department of Health relies on experts in the food industry, food research and academic establishments to assist them in drawing up appropriate food legislation.

MAFF also has divisions which monitor the food we eat for pollutants of all kinds, pesticides, metals and concern themselves with the safe development of novel foods, genetically modified foods and the irradiation of foods.

The need for everyone to eat means that the food industry is one of the largest in the world. Economic aspects of the food industry are covered in a number of courses in food science and technology and can be useful in preparing students for careers in management and marketing within the industry.

Food Science
A Food Scientist examines the chemistry and biology of foods from raw material through processing to the final product.

Food Technology
A Food Technologist uses food sciences and other technological know-how to turn raw materials into finished products for the consumer often with the aid of sophisticated equipment.

The relationship between meat quality and animal breed, the thickness of egg shells produced by different types of he, the effect of genotype on barley for malting, and modification of DNA in brewer’s yeasts show the ways in which scientists and technologists are employing genetic principles to continually improve our food supplies.

Most countries have legislation covering foods and this poses both opportunities and challenges. As a Civil Servant you could be involved in formulating the legislation; as an Environmental Health Officer or Trading Standards Officer you could be responsible for enforcing the law;

Or as a company food technologist you would need to know about food legislation in the UK, Europe or any other country to which your company exported food.


Every year some food science and technology graduates take up careers in food marketing. They usually find that their scientific knowledge can bridge the gap between the sales team who want exciting new products to market and the quality, safety, finance and production managers who must produce safe foods at the right price.

This is the study of ‘micro-4organisms’ which are single-celled organisms, or organisms consisting of cells that show little or no differentiation.

In practice this covers bacteria, fungi, protozoa and algae, viruses and prions. Beneficial micro-organisms are used in many familiar foods (cheese, wine, yoghurt, etc.), large economic losses can result from the activities of yeasts, moulds and spoilage bacteria, and food related illness can be caused by bacteria like Salmonella, Clostridia and Listeria.

Food microbiologists study sources, growth conditions and detection methods of both beneficial and pathogenic micro-organisms and can find mobs in industry, research and enforcement organisations.

Raw materials
Food and drink business large and small use raw materials from all over the world.

Food scientists and technologists are often asked by their company to find a new raw material supplier or inspect an existing one. For this they need to be flexible, adaptable and willing to travel.

The range of opportunities for careers in food research is wide. Pure research is often carried out in universities and government research laboratories.

Applied topics may form the basis of projects in the research associations and company research and development departments.

The EC and a number of international bodies fund research throughout the world ranging in scope from simple rural technologies to high-tech activities.

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