Food is a multidimensional subject involving the interplay of chemistry, physics, biochemistry, microbiology, nutrition, sensory science, engineering sciences and agricultural sciences. All foods originate from living sources, be it animal, plant or microorganisms and in nature these sources exist in diverse forms and quality. The food technologists have the onus of safeguarding the quality and safety of foods, besides creating consumer friendly products with extended life through application of science and engineering. If one examines the development of food industry during the last hundred years, it can easily been seen that aspects concerning human health have been ignored with the result that modern society is afflicted with several life threatening disorders like CVD, Diabetes, Hyper tension, Cancer and many others and the temptation is always there to blame the industry for these ills because of wrong products being made and promoted.
What is the upper most consideration for any consumer when given a choice to choose a food? Obviously the consumer is carried away by the color, shape, aroma and eating pleasure provided by the product. It is said that a consumer eats a food first with his "eyes" followed by smell, touch sense and finally through the oral cavity. Ultimate acceptability is determined by the taste sensation caused by chewing, macerating and swallowing of the food. Tastes like sweetness, saltiness, sourness, pungency and bitterness, either singly or in combination provide the final taste perception which "persuades" the consumer to like or to reject. It is this "weakness" on the part of the consumer to go for organoleptically superior foods that is driving the processing industry to pamper to this factor through marketing such products. Does the industry care about the adverse consequences of such an approach? Rarely! In a fiercely competitive market probably the manufacturers of processed foods will have to be one step ahead for survival and they have no option but to cater to the demands from the consumers.
While developing a product food technologists invariably focus more on consumer acceptability rather than the healthiness of the product. Such a distortion of the development perspectives has taken place because of the consumer attitude under which nutrition of a product is relegated to the background. Can this situation continue like this for long without the adverse consequences manifesting in different ways in the coming years? If no restraint is exercised, future of mankind will be in jeopardy and in less than 5 decades the world will be full of giant looking obese people with high morbidity and diverse diseases. There are many initiatives at the national and international level to counteract such a change but with little impact. Foods containing high sugars, high fat and high salt continue to be developed and promoted and it is time food technologists world over change their stance to devote more time for evolving "healthy" foods with greater emphasis on nutrition in preference to sensory quality. A new paradigm will have to emerge to guide these efforts.
According to a recent report a new discipline appears to be emerging in the West to combine nutrition with culinary aspects of foods that will have more emphasis on health but giving equal importance to inter linked subjects like science, technology and preparation skills. Culinology as it is being called is still a new concept and no university is imparting training in this area so far. Probably the health foods, specialty foods, functional foods all may be based Culinology as such foods can emerge only by fusing the culinary skills with food science and technology that will ensure shelf stability and manufacturing wherewithal. Who will be the candidates for training in culinology? Chefs, food technologists or nutritionists? Obviously it has to be the Chefs because they have the necessary skill to create mouth watering recipes and of the basics of nutrition are imbibed they are likely to be in the fore front in developing exciting new foods with excellent health credentials.
Presently in India there are different types of training courses leading to a multitude of degree certificates and about 1000 graduates coming out of these institutions are misfits when it comes to developing healthy foods with high culinary quality. On the other hand there are many catering training centers turning out personnel for the hotel industry with major emphasis on the organoleptically sound products. These trainees are not imparted adequate knowledge about human nutrition and health. If the training course is modified to develop adequate skills for making nutritionally sound products with high culinary quality, trained personnel from such courses will bring out revolutionary changes in the health of the population over the years.