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Importance of Food Chemistry

Updated on June 16, 2012
A French basil salmon terrine, with eye-appealing garnishes
A French basil salmon terrine, with eye-appealing garnishes | Source

Food chemisty allows for subjecting food materials to chemical scrutiny. It employs chemistry tools to analyse food items so that they transform to nutritious, safe and materials of commercial value. Instruments that are popular in the vicinity of chemistry are employed in food chemistry.

Flavours, preservatives, emulsifiers, thickeners, stabilizers, sweeteners, colours are some of the materials that are produced from food chemistry. And a consideration of the development of these materials from their crude source through research, development, production, regulation and commerce; would telltale of how expansive is the importance of food chemistry.

Here, we will be discussing the importance of food chemistry in a unique way!

Salting of Food

The primary perception of the addition of salt to food is to enhance the taste of the food. But salting of food goes beyond this reality! Although salt is regarded as a potent preservative in some quarters, it a unique tool that is not only used to balance the taste of food, but to enhance the texture and appearance of food products.

No other place is this more evident than in the industrial baking of bread where the size and colour of the baked bread is affected by the degree of salinity of the bread. Here, addition of excess salt when mixing bread flour would lead to a reduction in the size of the bread and also confer a shining appearance on the surface of the bread.

Vapour/Moisture Content

Food chemistry could manipulate a factor as seemingly insignificant as water to design and develop food products. Apart from the actual water content of food products that could be catered for during mixing, water is also used to create varieties that could affect the taste, texture and colour of finished food products.

A common example is what obtains in the process of frying yam. It is true that the yam could be slice, salted and fried directly in hot oil. But the addition of large quantity of water to the frying oil would create a situation where the yam is initially boiled to soften before frying in the oil. A unique aspect of this process is that, the hot oil would eventually evaporate the water so that the yam is completely fried.

Water is instrumental in the industrial baking of bread. Here, food scientists or technicians would design a baking process that allows water vapour into the baking oven. This confers a beautiful brownish colour on bread as against the very dull appearance when the bread is baked without vapour.


Food Preservation

Food chemistry is credited to have given birth to so many natural and artificial food preservatives. The study of some age-old preservation methods has also resulted to the study of chemical components which were used for the synthesis of recently approved industrial food preservatives.

But beyond what is handy, food chemistry allows what is known to be used to manipulate new additives such as evident in palm wine-plantain food preservatives. Here, it is evident that the active constituent of plantain peel ash in native soap-making is the potassium hydroxide lye, KOH, and the bacterial oxidation of the ethanol component of palm wine is ethanoic acid. This is a tool in the hands of a food chemist for the production of buffer and preservatives for local places.

Economic Importance

Food chemistry helps to design and develop new food products for industries. Here, the study of the component of various food substances could be used to initiate an array of chemical reactions that could lead to the formation of either new or improved food products. The improvement could be taste enhancement, new aroma, colour, or increased chef life.

Two special food substances are Burukutu and Kunu. Both are cereal food products prepared in northern nigeria and consumed in their crude state by locals. Burukutu for instance, is regarded as a culprit for the swollen stomach that is usually associated with chronic consumers.

Burukutu is a local housa beer that could be a great tool in the hands of food chemists who would use the knowledge gathered from the chemical make-up of lager beer to create a local beer for the Nigerian economy. Here, the active negative constituents could be isolated and the beer becomes a bottled substance that could create industries, jobs and generate revenue for the government.

Kunu is unlike burukutu in that, it is non-alcoholic. The best definition for kunu is that it is simply a malt drink! The beauty about this drink is that, it is so sweet even though the processing process do not involve the addition of sucrose or any other sweetener.

Kunu is made from sorghum and in some cases with maize so that a malt drink is produced, but not from barley! Food chemistry would use chemical analysis to refine the crude kunu into an industrial bottled drink that would generate vast commercial activities.

Analytic Chemistry Laboratory

Laboratory, Institute of Biochemistry, University of Cologne.
Laboratory, Institute of Biochemistry, University of Cologne. | Source

Role of Carbon(IV) Oxide

Carbon(IV) oxide (carbon monoxide) is the unsung hero of baking and brewery process. The formation of dough in bread-baking extends beyond the addition of yeast to flour and incubation of the paste. It extends to the anaerobic metabolism of yeast cells where alcohol and carbon(IV) oxide are liberated to form the the vast amount of the gaseous materials in the spongy dough. Here, food chemistry is important in the computation of the quantity of yeast per mass of flour, the speed of mixing, the duration of incubations and the time required for baking; so that a product of branded image is produced.

Carbon(IV) oxide is an important actor in the beautiful white foams in a glass of beer or the bubbling through a glass containing a golden coloured beer. This natural process has found great application in making fizzy drinks. Here, carbonic acid is used to generate carbon(IV) oxide in drinks so that food scientist could manipulate (in the laboratory) local local drinks to bottled commercial drinks.

From Dairy Farm To Dairy Products In The Super Market!

Dairy cattle in Maryland
Dairy cattle in Maryland | Source

Nutritional Immportance

Food chemistry uses analytical techniques to study the chemical components of food items in other to detect the nutritional and non-nutritional compounds. This include the constituent amino acids, fatty acids and carbohydrates. Emphasis is also given to mineral constituent and vitamin content.

Knowledge of the nutritional value of food is essential for developing a food product with essential amino acids and fatty acids. This could be by mixing up different food products since the amino acid that is absent in cow-pea and other legumes may be present in maize grains.

The nutritional importance of food chemistry also extends to the biochemical study of enzymes and cofactor. This also informs of the health importance of food chemistry!

Packaged Food Products!

Some packaged house-hold food items
Some packaged house-hold food items | Source

Branding and Packaging

An interesting aspect of food chemistry is in the branding and packaging of finished food products. Here, they represent on the food pack approval from various organizations and agencies responsible for the inspection of food items. Food chemistry also cater for the manufacture and expiration day of the food item, the nutritional value of the food and other essentials.

The beaming importance of food chemistry in this area is that, it brings the edible food item to a valuable commercial entity with the seal of approval from a relevant bodies. This is visible in the pack of fruit juice from the supermarket, the tin of dried milk, e.t.c.


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    • BeachMonarch profile image


      7 years ago from Virginia Beach **PLEASE VOTE FOR CHEMTEQ**

    • Chemistry Book profile imageAUTHOR

      Chemistry Book 

      7 years ago

      Simone Smith! hahaha! "Thanks for getting me thinking about all these fascinating subsets of the chemical aspects of food analysis and preparation" LOL!

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      7 years ago from San Francisco

      Woof- there's so much more to food chemistry than I had initially thought! Thanks for getting me thinking about all these fascinating subsets of the chemical aspects of food analysis and preparation.


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