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Designing education of food technologists to build in safety assurance

27 MAR,2017 | Mumbai

Subhaprada Nishtala
food technologists

The Indian food and grocery market is the world’s sixth largest, with retail contributing 70 per cent of the sales. Food has also been one of the largest segments in India's retail sector, which was valued at US$ 490 billion in 2013 (India Food Report 2016). The Indian food retail market is expected to reach Rs 61 lakh crore (US$ 894.98 billion) by 2020.

The Indian food processing industry accounts for 32 per cent of the country’s total food market, one of the largest industries in India and is ranked fifth in terms of production, consumption, export and expected growth. It contributes around 14 per cent of manufacturing Gross Domestic Product (GDP), 13 per cent of India’s exports and six per cent of total industrial investment. Indian food service industry is expected to reach US$ 78 billion by 2018. The Indian gourmet food market is currently valued at US$ 1.3 billion and is growing at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 20 per cent.

India is seeking to grow its contribution to global food products from the current 1 per cent. There are planned concurrent developments in the areas of state-of-the-art cold chain infrastructure and quality assurance measures. Apart from large investment pumped in by the private sector, public sector has also taken initiatives and with several centres for perishable cargoes and integrated post-harvest-handling facilities have been set up in the country.

Facing challenges

Food-borne pathogens are responsible for 48 million illnesses, 1,20,000 hospitalisations, and 3,000 deaths annually in the United States, and the associated economic burden is estimated to be $77.7 billion annually. Many outbreaks and recall events are a result of post process contamination or poor personal hygiene, which are preventable through ensuring the workforce possess appropriate behaviours and competencies

In the emerging scenario, the food science professionals need to develop sufficient awareness and appreciation of the relevant principles of life sciences, and physical sciences, as well as of a wide variety of other topics, including nutrition, preservation and storage techniques, processing unit operations, bio-processing, waste management, distribution and supply chain management, food laws and regulations and so on.

Quality management and quality control of food products continue to be critical to producing food that is safe to consume and has consistent quality and sensory attributes. The extent to which undergraduate students are equipped with competencies in quality management/control, in theory, has a direct connection with their career potential to ensure food products and/or services meet the expectations of consumers and society.

It is commonly evidenced in the industry that students joining in are technically prepared in the hard sciences, but they are not as prepared in what is sometimes termed as ‘soft sciences’, or communication skills areas. Universities need to do a better job of incorporating communication and leadership curriculum into existing food science courses.

The need of the hour is to improve the quality of food science education, including primary, secondary, undergraduate, graduate, continuing, and workplace education. Focus will need to be on developing

•           Problem-based learning and innovative learning techniques

•           Development of teachers and students

•           Innovative laboratory exercises

•           Interpersonal and human relationship development of students

Better preparing college students to enter the industry should supply the workforce with more qualified employees and improve food safety in manufacturing facilities.

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