Job description

Food chemists are scientific experts trained in a special field of chemistry, and they are primarily obligated to the safety of consumers. These experts use predominantly chemical and analytical tools but also biochemical and microbiological techniques for their work. Their priorities are

  • to assess and expand the knowledge about the often very complex composition of raw food and processed goods,
  • to elucidate the reactions of food compounds taking place during storage, preparation and production of aliments on commercial and industrial scales and to use this knowledge to improve these processes,
  • to test additives for the nature, purity and mode of action and to ensure their optimal and safe use,
  • to detect unwanted natural components, residues and impurities in foodstuffs and drinking water, and to overcome the sources of these pollutants,
  • to further develop and expand the capability of available methods, especially for trace analysis, in order to get reliable and significant results,
  • to evaluate these results in regards to legal regulations on nutrition and environment.

Based on their knowledge food chemists develop new methods to measure the quality of foodstuffs and to detect potential contaminations arising from processing or from the environment. In the area of food production they assure optimal quality and in the field of food monitoring they identify misleading information and deceptions of the producers.

These two sectors are connected by the common goal of preventing consumers from being exposed to risks arising from harmful substances in food. This does not only include drinking water, alcoholic drink and tobacco products, but extends to cosmetics and consumer goods that come in contact with human beings or foodstuffs, e.g. dishes, packing materials, toys, as well as washing and cleaning agents. In all those cases food chemists are qualified for the analysis and quality assurance of these goods as well as for their evaluation in regards to legal and toxicological matters.

Occupational fields

Being responsible for the analysis and evaluation of aliments as part of food monitoring, food chemists are often employed in chemical investigation offices of the federal states, of the cities or of the military. Furthermore they frequently work in ministries and law enforcement agencies.
 
Working in their own testing laboratories, self-employed food chemists advise producers, importers and companies by testing and legally evaluating their goods. Often they are assigned by the industry and the chamber of commerce as experts and referees for food chemistry and they are authorised by federal state authority to perform cross-checks.
In the industry of foodstuffs, cosmetics and consumer goods food chemists have wide responsibilities in research and development laboratories and are usually  in charge for quality control and product monitoring.
 
In the food research area, food chemists work either at federal or industrial research institutes, or at universities, where they are also involved in the education of future food chemists.
 
Moreover, there are many employment opportunities in laboratories available whenever the special knowledge of a food chemist in the matter of the analysis of complex matrices and their evaluation is needed. These jobs are found in testing facilities dealing with drinking water and environment (waste water, air and soil analysis), in the agricultural, chemical and pharmaceutical industry, in toxicology, as well as forensic and clinical chemistry. 
 
In the German Society of Food Chemistry food chemists from those various occupational fields come together to work on different issues.

Education

The job title “state certified food chemist” is protected by law and education is regulated by the respective federal states. Future candidates have to follow nine semesters of university studies and one year of ”legal clerkship”. Within this time they have to pass three sections of examination. 
After two years of basic studies in chemistry, main studies focus on:
 
autosampl
  • Chemistry, analysis and technology of e.g. foodstuffs, drinking water, consumer goods
  • Biochemistry
  • Nutritional science
  • Chemical toxicology
  • Microbiology and food hygiene
  • Ecological chemistry and environmental protection
  • Basics in legal regulations for foodstuffs and administrative law

During their ”legal clerkship” students deepen their knowledge in a chemical investigations office and in other institutions and translate their skills to practical tasks.

 

   
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