Dr Rajeev Bhat
Tuesday, January 17, 2017

FOOD being the basic necessity of life, recognising its value is of paramount interest.

Long back, Mark Twain had said: “The secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.”

And of course, the famous quote of Hippocrates is never to be forgotten: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”, indicating the importance given to food and food habits.

Today, there is a mounting interest among students to opt and choose for the best career pathway courses, the one which holds broader prospects and long-lasting job opportunities, taking into consideration the present day competitive world market scenario.

The chosen degree program by students needs to ensure and fulfil the emerging demands of both academia and industries, locally and internationally.

Among a wide range of science and technology-based courses degrees offered world over, a degree in food science and technology holds much higher prospects.

Understanding the basic principle, theme and difference between food science and food technology is vital.

As the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT, US) states food science involves studying various physical, biological and chemical composition of food plus understanding the fundamental concepts of food processing.

And, food technology covers the practical applications of food science knowledge for enhancing the quality and safety of foods.

Some of the major arena of study under the food science and technology program includes various competences relevant to processing, preservation, post-harvest technology, packaging, distribution and marketing as well as producing safe, nutritious, and wholesome food.

These approaches are all aimed to meet the ever increasing demands of consumers. As of now, the agro-food sector in Fiji, rather to say the whole of Pacific region and world over, is a rapidly growing industry.

Various innovations in food processing technology as well as in food production and supply chain have changed the mind-set of people’s perception on food consumption pattern and on food safety.

As per the employment surveys conducted world over in different fields of science and technology, and based on the available evidence and databases, there is a vast scope of job prospects for food science/technology graduates.

A degree in food science/technology will provide an opening for the students to further their academic proficiencies and equip themselves with the advanced knowledge and skills for practical applications in a wide range of food industries or in academia such as developing novel, healthy and functional food products, complying with food safety and health guidelines, policymaking, etc).

Besides, food science/technology graduates can apply their knowledge towards offering expertise aimed at enhancing local food security, ensuring self-sufficiency and overcoming issues pertaining to agro-food sustainability.

As indicated earlier, the future scope and job market for food graduates are extensive and infinite. Graduates can choose from an academic career (professional teacher/lecturer, scientist, nutritional therapist, toxicologist, legal adviser, trainer); an industrial career (work in research and development sector as a food scientist/food technologist, quality assurance officer, product developer, commercial technologist, food safety regulatory affairs officer, customer-service director, production manager and being a laboratory technician.

They can also be involved with governmental and non-governmental organisations and engage in works related to food security and food sustainability, help the local government for policy and decision making process, work as an expert consultant, etc.

Globally acclaimed organisations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) are continuously employing food science/technology graduates. Apart from a wide range of job scope, post-completion of a basic degree, the graduates have choice to pursue their higher studies (masters and doctoral degree followed by acquiring a post-doctoral research experience) in any of the established research laboratories/research centres or in universities the world over.

Remuneration packages for graduates are also good and competitive and depends on the degree obtained complemented with one’s years of experience.

Moreover, the graduates also have high scope for self-employment too (engage in food tourism, open a small-scale food industry, plan for the agro-farming sectors, and others).

The Fiji National University (FNU) being one of the premier institutions in Fiji Islands, offers a higher education diploma in food technology and bachelor of food technology degree programs at the food science department, school of sciences, college of engineering, science and technology located at the FNU Nabua campus, Suva.

In this department, staff members provide their expertise to enhance the working skills of the students and personally ensure those who graduate possess good knowledge on the core concepts of food science and technology.

The students are personally trained to attain hands-on experience to use various technical equipment and so are able to provide essential technological support in agro-food industries or in academia.

Students are also trained at developing critical and innovative thinking, acquire leadership qualities, enhance the communication proficiencies and get acquainted with all the vital skills to work in a team.

In addition, students are encouraged to realise the basics of the food traditional culture/values of the Pacific Islands.

As an outcome of their stay with the Food Science Department at FNU, students are also well trained to understand the concepts of work ethics and professionalism, aimed towards supporting the welfare of local community and consumers.

* Dr Rajeev Bhat is an associate professor and head of the food science department under the college of engineering, science and technology (CEST), FNU. For queries, email: hodfs@fnu.ac.fj.