In Cornell’s food science department, chemists, engineers, and microbiologists are working on tomorrow’s hot products– coming soon to a supermarket near you.
Beth Saulnier in Cornell Alumni Magazine:
With nutrition guidelines in constant flux, products jockeying for space on supermarket shelves, and the supply chain now thoroughly global–Hotchkiss notes that today’s undergrads can’t imagine not having Chilean grapes in January–food science is big business. The Institute of Food Technologists, the industry’s professional organization, has 22,000 members, many of whom show up for its popular Annual Meeting & Food Expo. “The application of science to food is a huge thing,” Hotchkiss says. “People don’t advertise this very much, in part because the food industry wants you to think that elves make cookies. But I’ll tell you: I’ve been to a cookie factory, and cookies are made so fast you can’t even see them go by.”
Not everyone is enthusiastic about what happens in food science labs, or in the production facilities that employ so few Keebler elves. In a January cover story in the New York Times Magazine entitled “Unhappy Meals,” best-selling author Michael Pollan condemned food scientists as creators of nutritionally unsound products that have uncoupled Americans from the benefits and pleasures of natural food. (Pollan’s most recent book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, laments “our national eating disorder” and is highly critical of industrial food production.) “Scientists operating with the best of intentions, using the best tools at their disposal, have taught us to look at food in a way that has diminished our pleasure in eating it,” Pollan writes, “while doing little or nothing to improve our health.” Among Pollan’s credos: avoid anything highly processed, and don’t eat anything your great-great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize.