Studies of food chemistry

pipettieren3 AG JLCBelow we would like to provide an overview over the education at universities in Germany. Since the education as well as the examination of food chemists is governed by the federal states, there are certain differences between each state. Please see our study guide for precise details on different study regulations as well as on research interests of every food chemistry institute in Germany.

Basic studies

During the four semesters of basic studies students take classes in inorganic, analytical, organic and physical chemistry as well as in biology, physics, and mathematics. These classes are usually deepened in practical courses in the laboratory. The aforementioned courses set the essentials for practical laboratory classes in inorganic, analytical, organic and physical chemistry, physics and biology. In many cases, oral or written exams concerning the content of these courses are compulsory to check for students' progress. Furthermore, courses in toxicology and legal regulations dealing with chemicals are implemented to give prospective food chemists the knowledge as well as the legal requirements for putting chemicals in circulation.
The exemplary regulation requests successful examinations in the following courses:

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  • practical course in inorganic chemistry
  • practical course in analytical chemistry
  • practical course in organic chemistry
  • practical course in physics
  • practical course in physical chemistry
  • practical course in biology
  • Tutorials in physical chemistry
  • Tutorials in mathematics
  • Tutorials in legal regulations for chemists and scientists
According to their local requirements the extent of these courses and examinations, respectively, may differ amongst the individual universities. Requirements are as a general rule the same as those for chemistry.
Following four semesters of basic studies preliminary oral exams (30 minutes each) have to be taken in:
  • inorganic and analytical chemistry
  • organic chemistry
  • physical chemistry
  • physics
  • biology
Passing the exams leads to admittance to main studies, the second section of education.

Main studies

Main studies are specially adjusted to meet the requirements for prospective food chemists’ future work and focus on providing them with the necessary knowledge as well as with the needed practical skills.

pipettieren1 AG JLCThe main emphasis lies on the chemistry and analysis of food, cosmetics, consumer goods, drinking water and tobacco products. In respective classes students acquire knowledge on the chemical composition, biosynthesis, analysis and reactions of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and all other groups of substances that can be found in aliments. Additionally, classes are taught that deal with technological procedures for the storage of raw products as well as processes that are used on small scale or by the industry. Of special interest are chemical reactions of food components and the effects of these reaction products on the sensorial quality of the products and their impact on consumers’ health. Besides additives, their use and function, residues and contaminants are also addressed and how to analyse and evaluate them. Furthermore, particular classes focus on cosmetics and consumer goods, on the preparation and the analysis of drinking water as well as related problems concerning environmental analysis.Die theoretischen Kenntnisse aus den Vorlesungen und Seminaren werden ergänzt durch praktische Fähigkeiten in der Lebensmittelanalytik, die die Studieren in den umfangreichen lebensmittelchemischen Praktika erwerben. Sie lernen dabei vor allem diejenigen Methoden und ihre Leistungsfähigkeit kennen, die zur Untersuchung so komplexer Substrate wie Lebensmittel in Frage kommen. Dabei kommen sowohl klassische, als auch die modernen Arbeitsweisen der instrumentellen Analytik mit ihren geringen Nachweisgrenzen zum Einsatz. Eng verknüpft mit der eigentlichen Untersuchung ist aber auch die Beurteilung der Ergebnisse im Hinblick auf den Verbraucherschutz und die geltenden rechtlichen Regelungen.

Theoretical skills gained from classes and seminars are the fundament for further practical laboratory classes in the analysis of foodstuffs. During these practical classes, students do not only acquire knowledge about special analytical methods that are used for complex matrices as to be found in food, they also get to know and learn to judge the capabilities of these methods. Besides classic chemical methods, students also work with advanced techniques of the instrumental analysis reaching more sensitive detection limits. Closely linked to practical experiences are the evaluation of the results obtained in respect to consumer protection and legal regulations.

There are also classes, tutorials and seminars from related subjects offered during the four semesters of main studies. Among these, microbiology plays a major role, since microorganisms are not only necessary for the production of certain foods, but are also the reason for their spoilage, which calls for effective hygiene actions. In laboratory classes students learn how to prove and determine the presence and nature of microorganisms in foodstuffs. In microscopy classes students get to know how to recognize components of crop products by their cellular structures. Applied biochemistry and nutrition science provide an understanding for biosyntheses and reactions of organic natural compounds, as well as for physiological processes during the utilization and metabolism of these substances in the organism. In addition attention is paid to qualitative and quantitative aspects of nutrition, including those of special diets. Furthermore, chemical toxicology deals with the manner, and its evaluation, how undesirable components in aliments, consumer goods and ecosystems influence the organism. Finally the student acquires basic skills on legal requirements, but the main part of a food chemists’ legal education is provided during the “legal clerkship”. Food chemistry students finish this second section of their studies with the first state examination. To be admitted to this examination, records of achievement for the following courses have to be submitted:

  • Practical laboratory classes in food chemistry I to IV
  • Practical laboratory class in chemical toxicology
  • Practical laboratory class in microbiology
  • Microscopy class for the evaluation of foodstuffs and consumer goods
  • Basics in legal regulations for foodstuffs and consumer goods
  • Tutorials in toxicology for chemists - Visitations of relevant businesses within classes

The first state examination consists of oral exams in the following fields:

  • Chemistry and analysis of foodstuff, tobacco products, cosmetics, consumer goods, and drinking water
  • Technology of foodstuff, tobacco products, cosmetics, consumer goods, and drinking water
  • Applied biochemistry and nutritional science
  • Microbiology and food hygiene
  • Toxicology and environmental analysis

The first state examination is followed by a scientific thesis of, in general, six months, during which students work on an experimental problem in the field of food or environmental analysis. Besides the first state examination, some universities award students with a diploma on the basis of the scientific thesis.

It is important to know that there are some differences in the respective federal states concerning the course and requirements of studies. That is why one should ask for the respective terms either directly at the university of interest or talk to the representatives of the Young Food Chemists’ Association mentioned on this website.

When students have passed their oral examinations and their thesis, the next step in becoming a food chemist is completing a one year “legal clerkship” that ends with the second state examination.

The legal clerkship

recht AG JLC Following main studies and passing the first state examination, prospective food chemists usually do a one-year internship, called“legal clerkship”, at an authorized chemical investigations office. Here, students are supposed to deepen their knowledge acquired at university and to transfer it to practical applications. Main emphasis is set on the organization, performance, and quality assurance of food analysis, the legal evaluation of food according to national and international regulations as well as the realisation of official food monitoring including business inspections. Interns will work for several weeksin all departments of the chemical investigations office dealing with all groups of food for some time each. Thus they will get to know the special methodology as well as how to provide an expert opinion. Tobacco products, cosmetics, consumer goods, and drinking water are also taken into account. In some cases concomitant seminars are offered.

According to current regulations, up to six months of practical work experience in food chemistry at university or at an extern research institute can be credited to the twelve months of internship. In some federal states interns are supposed to work a couple of months at an accredited extern research or testing laboratory. Future regulation foresees a period of at least five weeks at a local food control authority and therefore only up to four month of practical work experience in food chemistry at an extern institution can be credited.

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To obtain the professional degree “state certified food chemist” the candidates have to pass the second state examination. During this examination interns have to show that they have broad knowledge about the monitoring of foodstuffs and consumer goods and that they are capable to conduct all necessary examinations and evaluations and to trigger specific actions. Currently, examination consists of an oral test about “food law and execution of food inspection” and three practical examinations concerning the analysis and evaluation of food products, consumer goods, and a sample of drinking, process or waste water. 

The future examplary conditions of education provides for a third section of examination that consists of three oral examinations to be taken in the following fields:

  • Legal regulations for food and consumer goods
  • Organisation and mode of operation of the monitoring of aliments and consumer goods
  • Quality assurance in laboratories and businesses

Additionally, three practical examinations and three supervised legal evaluations from different fields of the internship have to be passed.

For further information you should contact one of the representatives of the Young Food Chemists.

Study guide

Our study guide gives a comprehensive and comparative overview of studying food chemistry in Germany and is available in the pdf format pdf_small.