Scienceblogs, which is run by The Seed Media Group, grew last week. In fact it doubled in size and now has 42 blogs on various topics. Which great, more power to science bloggers I say. But where are the chemistry bloggers?
There is Useful Chemistry and The Disgruntled Chemist. Does any one know of any others? As for food chemists blogging! I seem to be the only one. Some of the food bloggers use chemistry but they aren’t chemists who study food. This is when I realise that I haven’t promoted the chemistry side of what I do and while I’ve discussed food science and food chemistry issues, I have yet to do an introduction to food chemistry.
This is about to be rectified!
So what is food chemistry?
Obviously, I hope, it is the application of chemistry to food. Food chemistry includes not only food analysis to find out what is in the food, but also about how and why food changes during processing and storage, how different ingredients interact, how changes in pH and chemical make-up can be used to preserve food and prevent micro-organisms from growing or in the case of bread, cheese, beer or wine encourage the right organisims to grow. Food chemistry is how we know that we can take tasteless raw materials (flour, water, yeast) and convert them into edible and desirable food (bread). Food chemists consider the reactions that take place to form colors and flavors both desirable and undesirable. They are also concerned about the reactions that cause the loss of nutrients; some of these reactions are the same!
Food chemists study how raw materials change after harvesting; what changes take place to convert animals to meat, why do fruit and vegetables continue to ripen after being picked. To quote from ACS
Food chemistry is the study of the chemistry of foods, their deterioration, and the principles underlying the improvement of foods for the consuming public. It is the application of chemistry to the development, processing, packaging, preservation, storage, and distribution of foods and beverages for the purposes of obtaining a safe, economical, and aesthetically pleasing supply of food for people worldwide.
Food chemists develop and improve foods and beverages; analyze methods of cooking, canning, freezing, and packaging; and study the effect of processing on their appearance, taste, aroma, freshness, and vitamin content of the food. They also test samples to make sure foods and beverages meet food laws and experiment with new foods, additives, and preservatives. Food chemistry encompasses activities from agricultural raw materials to consumer end-use products.
One of the most important aspects of food chemistry, in my opinion, is understanding what is necessary to improve or maintain food quality. This include safety, flavor, appearance, texture and nutritional quality.
I study the physical changes that occur during both processing and storage. I am particularly interested in browning reactions that occur during baking, frying, roasting, toasting etc. I actually study this reaction in simple model systems as in a whole food there are too many reactions taking place simultaneously. My long-term (even life-time) goal is to develop a computer model based on a mathematical model of the chemical changes so that we/food processers can predict what the color/flavor/texture would be given known ingredients and processing conditions. At the moment I haven’t even got this for my simple model system!