Biotechnologists apply biology and genetic engineering sciences specific to the production of engineered foods. They can range in complexity from simple improvements of farming and food manufacturing technologies to the creation of generically re-engineered or processed foods for use in zero-gravity space flights.
There are basically two areas where biotechnologists work. One is in food source cultivation where they work in labs and the field with agriculturists or aquaculturists in researching for high yielding food crop breeding, gene splicing for better crop species, microbial fermentation, and cell tissue cultures to produce enhanced raw products for higher quality food processing. The other is in commercial food processing or manufacturing plants.
The latter biotechnologists are often called food technologies who research and recommend new and better or more cost effective ways to process, preserve and package foods for longer shelf lives or more nutritious food products. They also perform in-process test of food samples to ensure that the end-product meet quality standards. They observe and document changes during storage and in temperatures and atmospheric conditions to determine the proper cooking conditions.
Food technologists assigned in labs of manufacturing plants conduct research on the chemical structure of foods and understand their reaction to flavoring, preservatives and other processing methods to improve taste, lock-in or add nutrients. This applies to both existing and new foods the company plans to manufacture. They also determine and document the nutritive content in processed foods so they can be labeled in accordance with FDA rules.
Food technologists also collaborate with process engineers to ensure that wastes are disposed of properly and sanitary regulations are observed throughout the plant.
Where They Work
Food technologists are found mostly in laboratories and test kitchens. They frequently make the rounds on production lines in commercial food processing and manufacturing plants. Some work in government agencies such as U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration.