While food additives may seem bad, they are actually quite beneficial. Here’s how chemical engineering improves our food in ways you may not realize.
Many industries benefit from chemical engineering. Scientists in this field have worked to preserve and enhance food products to reduce the amount of food that goes to waste while making it as delicious and appealing as possible. Let’s look at how chemical engineering improves our food in greater depth to understand and, hopefully, rule out any fears you may have about food additives.
Improving Food Growth
The first thing to remember is that many chemicals occur in nature rather than solely in the lab. Chemical engineering improves our food by helping scientists discover how to leverage the chemicals crops already use for growth. This can lead them to optimize and maximize the growing conditions of food successfully. For instance, nitrogen is a vital source of nutrients for crops, and companies have created fertilizers to reflect this fact. Formaldehyde is present in fertilizer because it consistently releases nitrogen for crops to feed on, resulting in larger and healthier crops than those that grow under normal conditions.
Similarly, crops need protection from pests and invaders that might try to infest them. Chemical engineers have been instrumental in producing pesticides and other protective measures that can guard fields against infestation without harming the crops or making them unsafe for consumption.
Improving Food Preservation
While producing more food is important, this objective becomes pointless if it spoils and people need to throw it out. The most basic goal of food preservation is to slow down the activity of disease-causing bacteria if not eliminate it altogether. We see this in canned foods, which have significantly prolonged lifespans. And we have chemical engineers to thank for modern food packaging that allows us to ship food beyond local markets. This packaging limits the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide within the packaging to slow ripening and spoilage and increase the food’s shelf life.
Improving Food Attributes
By manipulating the natural chemicals within food, chemical engineers and food scientists have gradually increased the appeal and taste of food to make it more appetizing. Many of the expectations you hold for food are products of chemical engineering. Brighter colors, artificial flavoring, and other desirable traits are present in altered foods. These characteristics make them much more palatable and beneficial for our consumption. This engineering does more than make the food appear more delicious, though. Scientists make efforts to add additional nutritional value to foods to help consumers live healthier lives. They often do this by finding innovative uses for various starches.