The food industry is one of the biggest industries in South Africa. It is a provider of many business opportunities and employs in the order of 160, 000 people of whom about 15% have a post matric qualification. Local households spend some 20% of their income on food with about R150 billion per year being spent in total on food consumption in 2005. Unlike the many other occupations and professions active in this sector, food scientists and technologists are dedicated to the food and allied industries by virtue of their education and training and they enjoy a special place in it due to their unique scientific knowledge and understanding of food and its many exciting and complex components and properties. The food industry is thus the domain of the food scientist and technologist.

What Exactly is Food Science and Technology?

Food science and technology is the study of the various chemical and physical properties and components of food and how they respond to processing, preservation and storage. It is the application of this knowledge plus that from other disciplines such as chemistry, biochemistry, microbiology and engineering, that is needed in providing a wide variety of safe, appealing and affordable foods for sustenance and for pleasure. Food scientists and technologists must be able to apply know-how to produce, process, package, preserve, store, distribute and prepare quality food - efficiently and consistently. Essentially, they take over at the point where the harvested produce enters the factory or processing plant and their contribution ends when the consumer expresses satisfaction with the final product and makes the decision to purchase the product again.

Typical Food Science and Technology Job Duties in the Food Industry

Depending on the size and type of factory or organisation that they are employed in, food scientists and technologists could be involved in one, some or most of the following activities. Some could be doing research, focusing on any one of the listed activities but doing so in the more academic environment of a research institute or university, rather than in, or close to, a processing plant.
  • Develop new products and improve existing ones.
  • Experiment with new ingredients, processes and packaging to optimise safety, consumer satisfaction, performance and quality and minimise costs and waste.
  • Set requirements and specifications for raw materials needed in new and existing products and check for conformance by means of visual, analytical and sensory methods.
  • Set specifications for products and processes and test for conformance.
  • Conduct taste panels to optimise new product formulations, to monitor production line conformance and solve off-flavour problems.
  • Continuously keep abreast of changes and amendments to legislation and regulations and be prepared to respond when drafts are published for comments.
  • Ensure that all raw materials, products, processes, practises, premises and packaging, labels and advertising conform to the various legal requirements.
  • Take regular samples of ingredients, products, the environment, etc., according to specified sampling techniques, in order to analyse products, raw materials and the effect of clean-up operations to ensure conformance to technical, nutrient, safety, microbiological and other quality standards and specifications.
  • Set up and run an active hygiene committee to maximise and maintain standards, train staff and establish a culture of hygiene, cleanliness and safety.
  • Solve problems relating to processing, packaging, spoilage, rancidity, infestation, general non-conformance, product failure, returns and complaints, etc.
  • Implement quality, food safety and good manufacturing procedures.
  • Conduct regular audits to maintain plant, process and product standards, including own products sourced from supermarket shelves.
  • Prepare, cook, and sensorially evaluate products to ensure conformance and customer satisfaction.
  • Follow up customer complaints with a view to solving problems and improving processes, procedures and products in order to maximise consumer acceptance.
  • Monitor and control environmental impacts.
  • Liaise with and educate the community with respect to technical aspects of food and its processing.
  • Read, attend training courses, workshops, congresses, symposia and exhibitions offered by experts in the field in order to keep up to date with developments and trends locally and abroad.
  • Join SAAFoST, the organisation for food science and technology professionals in South Africa, to keep abreast of technology, network and demonstrate an interest in and commitment to the promotion of food professionalism in the food industry.

Food Science Internships South Africa

Food Science Courses in South Africa

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