Food chemistry

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Food chemistry is the study of chemical processes and interactions of all biological and non-biological components of foods. [1] [2] The biological substances include such items as meat, poultry, lettuce, beer, and milk as examples. It is similar to biochemistry in its main components such as carbohydrates, lipids, and protein, but it also includes areas such as water, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, food additives, flavors, and colors. This discipline also encompasses how products change under certain food processing techniques and ways either to enhance or to prevent them from happening. An example of enhancing a process would be to encourage fermentation of dairy products with microorganisms that convert lactose to lactic acid; an example of preventing a process would be stopping the browning on the surface of freshly cut apples using lemon juice or other acidulated water.

Meat Animal flesh eaten as food

Meat is animal flesh that is eaten as food. Humans have hunted and killed animals for meat since prehistoric times. The advent of civilization allowed the domestication of animals such as chickens, sheep, rabbits, pigs and cattle. This eventually led to their use in meat production on an industrial scale with the aid of slaughterhouses.

Poultry domesticated birds kept by humans for their eggs, their meat or their feathers. These birds are most typically members of the superorder Galloanserae (fowl), especially the order Galliformes

Poultry are domesticated birds kept by humans for their eggs, their meat or their feathers. These birds are most typically members of the superorder Galloanserae (fowl), especially the order Galliformes.

Lettuce Species of annual plant of the daisy family, most often grown as a leaf vegetable

Lettuce is an annual plant of the daisy family, Asteraceae. It is most often grown as a leaf vegetable, but sometimes for its stem and seeds. Lettuce is most often used for salads, although it is also seen in other kinds of food, such as soups, sandwiches and wraps; it can also be grilled. One variety, the woju (莴苣), or asparagus lettuce (Celtuce), is grown for its stems, which are eaten either raw or cooked. In addition to its main use as a leafy green, it has also gathered religious and medicinal significance over centuries of human consumption. Europe and North America originally dominated the market for lettuce, but by the late 20th century the consumption of lettuce had spread throughout the world. World production of lettuce and chicory for calendar year 2017 was 27 million tonnes, 56% of which came from China.


History of food chemistry

The scientific approach to food and nutrition arose with attention to agricultural chemistry in the works of J. G. Wallerius, Humphry Davy, and others. For example, Davy published Elements of Agricultural Chemistry, in a Course of Lectures for the Board of Agriculture (1813) in the United Kingdom which would serve as a foundation for the profession worldwide, going into a fifth edition. Earlier work included that by Carl Wilhelm Scheele who isolated malic acid from apples in 1785.

Nutrition is the science that interprets the interaction of nutrients and other substances in food in relation to maintenance, growth, reproduction, health and disease of an organism. It includes food intake, absorption, assimilation, biosynthesis, catabolism and excretion.

Agricultural chemistry is the study of both chemistry and biochemistry which are important in agricultural production, the processing of raw products into foods and beverages, and in environmental monitoring and remediation. These studies emphasize the relationships between plants, animals and bacteria and their environment. The science of chemical compositions and changes involved in the production, protection, and use of crops and livestock. As a basic science, it embraces, in addition to test-tube chemistry, all the life processes through which humans obtain food and fiber for themselves and feed for their animals. As an applied science or technology, it is directed toward control of those processes to increase yields, improve quality, and reduce costs. One important branch of it, chemurgy, is concerned chiefly with utilization of agricultural products as chemical raw materials. Etc.

Humphry Davy English chemist

Sir Humphry Davy, 1st Baronet was a Cornish chemist and inventor, who is best remembered today for isolating, using electricity, a series of elements for the first time: potassium and sodium in 1807 and calcium, strontium, barium, magnesium and boron the following year, as well as discovering the elemental nature of chlorine and iodine. He also studied the forces involved in these separations, inventing the new field of electrochemistry. In 1799 Davy experimented with nitrous oxide and was astonished at how it made him laugh, so he nicknamed it "laughing gas", and wrote about its potential anaesthetic properties in relieving pain during surgery.

In 1874 the Society of Public Analysts was formed, with the aim of applying analytical methods to the benefit of the public. [3] Its early experiments were based on bread, milk and wine.

It was also out of concern for the quality of the food supply, mainly food adulteration and contamination issues that would first stem from intentional contamination to later with chemical food additives by the 1950s. The development of colleges and universities worldwide, most notably in the United States, would expand food chemistry as well with research of the dietary substances, most notably the Single-grain experiment during 1907-11. Additional research by Harvey W. Wiley at the United States Department of Agriculture during the late 19th century would play a key factor in the creation of the United States Food and Drug Administration in 1906. The American Chemical Society would establish their Agricultural and Food Chemistry Division in 1908 while the Institute of Food Technologists would establish their Food Chemistry Division in 1995.

The single-grain experiment was an experiment carried out at the University of Wisconsin–Madison from May 1907 to 1911. The experiment tested if cows could survive on a single type of grain. The experiment would lead to the development of modern nutritional science.

United States Department of Agriculture department of United States government responsible policy on farming, agriculture, forestry, and food

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), also known as the Agriculture Department, is the U.S. federal executive department responsible for developing and executing federal laws related to farming, forestry, and food. It aims to meet the needs of farmers and ranchers, promote agricultural trade and production, work to assure food safety, protect natural resources, foster rural communities and end hunger in the United States and internationally.

American Chemical Society American scientific society

The American Chemical Society (ACS) is a scientific society based in the United States that supports scientific inquiry in the field of chemistry. Founded in 1876 at New York University, the ACS currently has nearly 157,000 members at all degree levels and in all fields of chemistry, chemical engineering, and related fields. It is the world's largest scientific society by membership. The ACS is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and holds a congressional charter under Title 36 of the United States Code. Its headquarters are located in Washington, D.C., and it has a large concentration of staff in Columbus, Ohio.

Food chemistry concepts are often drawn from rheology, theories of transport phenomena, physical and chemical thermodynamics, chemical bonds and interaction forces, quantum mechanics and reaction kinetics, biopolymer science, colloidal interactions, nucleation, glass transitions and freezing/disordered or noncrystalline solids, and thus has Food Physical Chemistry as a foundation area. [4] [5]

Rheology is the study of the flow of matter, primarily in a liquid state, but also as "soft solids" or solids under conditions in which they respond with plastic flow rather than deforming elastically in response to an applied force. Rheology is the science of deformation and flow within a material. It is a branch of physics which deals with the deformation and flow of materials, both solids and liquids.

In engineering, physics and chemistry, the study of transport phenomena concerns the exchange of mass, energy, charge, momentum and angular momentum between observed and studied systems. While it draws from fields as diverse as continuum mechanics and thermodynamics, it places a heavy emphasis on the commonalities between the topics covered. Mass, momentum, and heat transport all share a very similar mathematical framework, and the parallels between them are exploited in the study of transport phenomena to draw deep mathematical connections that often provide very useful tools in the analysis of one field that are directly derived from the others.

Chemical thermodynamics is the study of the interrelation of heat and work with chemical reactions or with physical changes of state within the confines of the laws of thermodynamics. Chemical thermodynamics involves not only laboratory measurements of various thermodynamic properties, but also the application of mathematical methods to the study of chemical questions and the spontaneity of processes.

Water in food systems

A major component of food is water, which can encompass anywhere from 50% in meat products to 95% in lettuce, cabbage, and tomato products. It is also an excellent place for bacterial growth and food spoilage if it is not properly processed. One way this is measured in food is by water activity which is very important in the shelf life of many foods during processing. One of the keys to food preservation in most instances is reduce the amount of water or alter the water's characteristics to enhance shelf-life. Such methods include dehydration, freezing, and refrigeration [6] [7] [8] [9] This field encompasses the "physiochemical principles of the reactions and conversions that occur during the manufacture, handling, and storage of foods". [10] .

Cabbage A leafy green, red (purple), or white (pale green) biennial plant grown as an annual vegetable crop for its dense-leaved heads

Cabbage or headed cabbage is a leafy green, red (purple), or white biennial plant grown as an annual vegetable crop for its dense-leaved heads. It is descended from the wild cabbage, B. oleracea var. oleracea, and belongs to the "cole crops", meaning it is closely related to broccoli and cauliflower ; Brussels sprouts ; and savoy cabbage. Brassica rapa is commonly named Chinese, celery or napa cabbage and has many of the same uses. Cabbage is high in nutritional value.

Tomato Edible berry of the tomato plant, originating in South America

The tomato is the edible, often red, berry of the plant Solanum lycopersicum, commonly known as a tomato plant. The species originated in western South America and Central America. The Nahuatl word tomatl gave rise to the Spanish word tomate, from which the English word tomato derived. Its domestication and use as a cultivated food may have originated with the indigenous peoples of Mexico. The Aztecs used tomatoes in their cooking at the time of the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire, and after the Spanish encountered the tomato for the first time after their contact with the Aztecs, they brought the plant to Europe. From there, the tomato was introduced to other parts of the European-colonized world during the 16th century.

Water activity

Water activity or aw is the partial vapor pressure of water in a substance divided by the standard state partial vapor pressure of water. In the field of food science, the standard state is most often defined as the partial vapor pressure of pure water at the same temperature. Using this particular definition, pure distilled water has a water activity of exactly one. As temperature increases, aw typically increases, except in some products with crystalline salt or sugar.


Sucrose: ordinary table sugar and probably the most familiar carbohydrate. Saccharose.svg
Sucrose: ordinary table sugar and probably the most familiar carbohydrate.

Comprising 75% of the biological world and 80% of all food intake for human consumption, the most common known human carbohydrate is Sucrose [ citation needed ]. The simplest version of a carbohydrate is a monosaccharide which contains carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen in a 1:2:1 ratio under a general formula of CnH2nOn where n is a minimum of 3. Glucose is an example of a monosaccharide as is fructose. When combined in the way that the image to the right depicts, sucrose, one of the more common sugar products found in plants, is formed.

A chain of monosaccharides form to make a polysaccharide. Such polysaccharides include pectin, dextran, agar, and xanthan.

Sugar content is commonly measured in degrees brix.


The term lipid comprises a diverse range of molecules and to some extent is a catchall for relatively water-insoluble or nonpolar compounds of biological origin, including waxes, fatty acids (including essential fatty acids), fatty-acid derived phospholipids, sphingolipids, glycolipids and terpenoids, such as retinoids and steroids. Some lipids are linear aliphatic molecules, while others have ring structures. Some are aromatic, while others are not. Some are flexible, while others are rigid.

Most lipids have some polar character in addition to being largely nonpolar. Generally, the bulk of their structure is nonpolar or hydrophobic ("water-fearing"), meaning that it does not interact well with polar solvents like water. Another part of their structure is polar or hydrophilic ("water-loving") and will tend to associate with polar solvents like water. This makes them amphiphilic molecules (having both hydrophobic and hydrophilic portions). In the case of cholesterol, the polar group is a mere -OH (hydroxyl or alcohol).

Lipids in food include the oils of such grains as corn, soybean, from animal fats, and are parts of many foods such as milk, cheese, and meat. They also act as vitamin carriers.

Food proteins

Proteins compose over 50% of the dry weight of an average living cell[ citation needed ][ clarification needed ] and are very complex macromolecules. They also play a fundamental role in the structure and function of cells. [11] Consisting mainly of carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, and some sulfur, they also may contain iron, copper, phosphorus, or zinc.

In food, proteins are essential for growth and survival, and requirements vary depending upon a person's age and physiology (e.g., pregnancy). Protein is commonly obtained from animal sources: eggs, milk, and meat. Nuts, grains and legumes provide vegetable sources of protein, and protein combining of vegetable sources is used to achieve complete protein nutritional quotas from vegetables.

Protein sensitivity as food allergy is detected with the ELISA test.


Enzymes are biochemical catalysts used in converting processes from one substance to another. They are also involved in reducing the amount of time and energy required to complete a chemical process. Many aspects of the food industry use catalysts, including baking, brewing, dairy, and fruit juices, to make cheese, beer, and bread.


Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), water-soluble. Riboflavin.png
Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), water-soluble.

Vitamins are nutrients required in small amounts for essential metabolic reactions in the body. These are broken down in nutrition as either water-soluble (Vitamin C) or fat-soluble (Vitamin E). An adequate supply of vitamins can prevent diseases such as beriberi, anemia, and scurvy while an overdose of vitamins can produce nausea and vomiting or even death.


Dietary minerals in foods are large and diverse with many required to function while other trace elements can be hazardous if consumed in excessive amounts. Bulk minerals with a Reference Daily Intake (RDI, formerly Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA)) of more than 200 mg/day are calcium, magnesium, and potassium while important trace minerals (RDI less than 200 mg/day) are copper, iron, and zinc. These are found in many foods, but can also be taken in dietary supplements.


Food colouring is added to change the colour of any food substance. It is mainly for sensory analysis purposes. It can be used to simulate the natural colour of a product as perceived by the customer, such as red dye (like FD&C Red No.40 Allura Red AC) to ketchup or to add unnatural colours to a product like Kellogg's Froot Loops. Caramel is a natural food dye; the industrial form, caramel colouring, is the most widely used food colouring and is found in foods from soft drinks to soya sauce, bread, and pickles.


Flavour in food is important in how food smells and tastes to the consumer, especially in sensory analysis. Some of these products occur naturally like salt and sugar, but flavour chemists (called a "flavourist") develop many of these flavours for food products. Such artificial flavours include methyl salicylate which creates the wintergreen odor and lactic acid which gives milk a tart taste.

Food additives

Food additives are substances added to food for preserving flavours, or improving taste or appearance. The processes are as old as adding vinegar for pickling or as an emulsifier for emulsion mixtures like mayonnaise. These are generally listed by "E number" in the European Union or GRAS ("generally recognized as safe") by the United States Food and Drug Administration.

See also

Food chemists also help extract color from food, which is one of many jobs they have.

Related Research Articles

Chemistry of ascorbic acid group of chemical compounds

Ascorbic acid is an organic compound with formula C
, originally called hexuronic acid. It is a white solid, but impure samples can appear yellowish. It dissolves well in water to give mildly acidic solutions. It is a mild reducing agent.

Biochemistry study of chemical processes in living organisms

Biochemistry, sometimes called biological chemistry, is the study of chemical processes within and relating to living organisms. Biochemical processes give rise to the complexity of life.

Carbohydrate Organic compound that consists only of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen

A carbohydrate is a biomolecule consisting of carbon (C), hydrogen (H) and oxygen (O) atoms, usually with a hydrogen–oxygen atom ratio of 2:1 (as in water) and thus with the empirical formula Cm(H2O)n (where m may be different from n). This formula holds true for monosaccharides. Some exceptions exist; for example, deoxyribose, a sugar component of DNA, has the empirical formula C5H10O4. The carbohydrates are technically hydrates of carbon; structurally it is more accurate to view them as aldoses and ketoses.

Lipid A substance of biological origin that is soluble in nonpolar

In biology and biochemistry, a lipid is a biomolecule that is soluble in nonpolar solvents. Non-polar solvents are typically hydrocarbons used to dissolve other naturally occurring hydrocarbon lipid molecules that do not dissolve in water, including fatty acids, waxes, sterols, fat-soluble vitamins, monoglycerides, diglycerides, triglycerides, and phospholipids.

Thiamine chemical compound

Thiamine, also known as thiamin or vitamin B1, is a vitamin found in food, and manufactured as a dietary supplement and medication. Food sources of thiamine include whole grains, legumes, and some meats and fish. Grain processing removes much of the thiamine content, so in many countries cereals and flours are enriched with thiamine. Supplements and medications are available to treat and prevent thiamine deficiency and disorders that result from it, including beriberi and Wernicke encephalopathy. Other uses include the treatment of maple syrup urine disease and Leigh syndrome. They are typically taken by mouth, but may also be given by intravenous or intramuscular injection.

Vitamin organic compound and a vital nutrient that an organism requires in limited amounts

A vitamin is an organic molecule (or related set of molecules) that is an essential micronutrient that an organism needs in small quantities for the proper functioning of its metabolism. Essential nutrients cannot be synthesized in the organism, either at all or not in sufficient quantities, and therefore must be obtained through the diet. Vitamin C can be synthesized by some species but not by others; it is not a vitamin in the first instance but is in the second. The term vitamin does not include the three other groups of essential nutrients: minerals, essential fatty acids, and essential amino acids. Most vitamins are not single molecules, but groups of related molecules called vitamers. For example, vitamin E consists of four tocopherols and four tocotrienols. The thirteen vitamins required by human metabolism are: vitamin A (as all-trans-retinol, all-trans-retinyl-esters, as well as all-trans-beta-carotene and other provitamin A carotenoids), vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B3 (niacin), vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), vitamin B7 (biotin), vitamin B9 (folic acid or folate), vitamin B12 (cobalamins), vitamin C (ascorbic acid), vitamin D (calciferols), vitamin E (tocopherols and tocotrienols), and vitamin K (quinones).

Pantothenic acid chemical compound

Pantothenic acid, also called vitamin B5 (a B vitamin), is a water-soluble vitamin. Pantothenic acid is an essential nutrient. Animals require pantothenic acid in order to synthesize coenzyme-A (CoA), as well as to synthesize and metabolize proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. The anion is called pantothenate.

A nutrient is a substance used by an organism to survive, grow, and reproduce. The requirement for dietary nutrient intake applies to animals, plants, fungi, and protists. Nutrients can be incorporated into cells for metabolic purposes or excreted by cells to create non-cellular structures, such as hair, scales, feathers, or exoskeletons. Some nutrients can be metabolically converted to smaller molecules in the process of releasing energy, such as for carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, and fermentation products, leading to end-products of water and carbon dioxide. All organisms require water. Essential nutrients for animals are the energy sources, some of the amino acids that are combined to create proteins, a subset of fatty acids, vitamins and certain minerals. Plants require more diverse minerals absorbed through roots, plus carbon dioxide and oxygen absorbed through leaves. Fungi live on dead or living organic matter and meet nutrient needs from their host.

Human nutrition provision of essential nutrients necessary to support human life and health

Human nutrition deals with the provision of essential nutrients in food that are necessary to support human life and health. Poor nutrition is a chronic problem often linked to poverty, food security or a poor understanding of nutrition and dietary practices. Malnutrition and its consequences are large contributors to deaths and disabilities worldwide. Good nutrition is necessary for children to grow physically, and for normal human biological development.

Food energy chemical energy that animals (including humans) derive from food and molecular oxygen through the process of cellular respiration

Food energy is chemical energy that animals derive from food through the process of cellular respiration. Cellular respiration may either involve the chemical reaction of food molecules with molecular oxygen or the process of reorganizing the food molecules without additional oxygen.

Food science applied science devoted to the study of food

Food science is the science of nature devoted to the study of food; it is often confused with "food technology". The Institute of Food Technologists defines food science as "the discipline in which the engineering, biological, and physical sciences are used to study the nature of foods, the causes of deterioration, the principles underlying food processing, and the improvement of foods for the consuming public". The textbook Food Science defines food science in simpler terms as "the application of basic sciences and engineering to study the physical, chemical, and biochemical nature of foods and the principles of food processing".

Biomolecule Molecule that is produced by a living organism

A biomolecule or biological molecule is a loosely used term for molecules and ions present in organisms that are essential to one or more typically biological processes, such as cell division, morphogenesis, or development. Biomolecules include large macromolecules such as proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, and nucleic acids, as well as small molecules such as primary metabolites, secondary metabolites, and natural products. A more general name for this class of material is biological materials. Biomolecules are usually endogenous, produced within the organism but organisms usually need exogenous biomolecules, for example certain nutrients, to survive.

Sports nutrition is the study and practice of nutrition and diet with regards to improving anyone's athletic performance. Nutrition is an important part of many sports training regimens, being popular in strength sports and endurance sports. Sports Nutrition focuses its studies on the type, as well as the quantity of fluids and food taken by an athlete. In addition, it deals with the consumption of nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, supplements and organic substances that include carbohydrates, proteins and fats.

Protein (nutrient) nutrient for the human body

Proteins are essential nutrients for the human body. They are one of the building blocks of body tissue and can also serve as a fuel source. As a fuel, proteins provide as much energy density as carbohydrates: 4 kcal per gram; in contrast, lipids provide 9 kcal per gram. The most important aspect and defining characteristic of protein from a nutritional standpoint is its amino acid composition.

Biomolecular engineering is the application of engineering principles and practices to the purposeful manipulation of molecules of biological origin. Biomolecular engineers integrate knowledge of biological processes with the core knowledge of chemical engineering in order to focus on molecular level solutions to issues and problems in the life sciences related to the environment, agriculture, energy, industry, food production, biotechnology and medicine.

Animal nutrition focuses on the dietary needs of animals, primarily those in agriculture and food production, but also in zoos, aquariums, and wildlife management.

Kefir fermented milk drink

Kefir or kephir, is a fermented milk drink similar to a thin yogurt that is made from kefir grains, a specific type of mesophilic symbiotic culture. The drink originated in the Caucasus, Eastern Europe and Russia, where it is prepared by inoculating cow, goat, or sheep milk with kefir grains.

Thomas Burr Osborne was a biochemist and early discoverer of Vitamin A. He is known for his work isolating and characterizing seed proteins, and for determining protein nutritional requirements. His career was spent at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station.

Food physical chemistry is considered to be a branch of Food chemistry concerned with the study of both physical and chemical interactions in foods in terms of physical and chemical principles applied to food systems, as well as the applications of physical/chemical techniques and instrumentation for the study of foods. This field encompasses the "physiochemical principles of the reactions and conversions that occur during the manufacture, handling, and storage of foods"


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