With approximately 230,000 jobs linked to the sector and a turnover of €24 billion, the food and drink industry in Ireland represents a vibrant and vital element of the Irish economy. According to a report by the Food and Drink Industry Ireland, it is hoped that the sector’s performance levels will be augmented through the creation of an additional 30,000 jobs by 2020. In order for this forecast to become a reality, however, there must be ongoing innovation. This is part of what makes studying Food Science and Technology at postgraduate level such an exciting challenge: it often plays an important role in the development process.
University College Cork currently offers three taught programmes in the food science field. As well as scientific training and research, students of the MSc in Food Science (Applied) – which is one-year full-time programme – can choose from among a broad selection of modules, including Material Science for Food Systems, Advanced Analytical Methods and Food Processing and Preservation. The MSc in Food Microbiology (also one year full time) is a more specific programme that is primarily focused on providing advanced theoretical and practical training within the confines of food microbiology. The HDip in Food Science & Technology (which is one year full time or two year part time) acts as a good introduction to either of the foregoing programmes.
University College Dublin’s MEngSc in Food Engineering (one year full time, two years part time) is aimed at graduates in engineering, science and related disciplines. It provides comprehensive coverage of bioprocess engineering, risk assessment and product development. Though class sizes vary, one-to-one tuition from an assigned mentor is provided to each student.
While it may seem axiomatic to say that food safety should always be a priority, the unfortunate fact is that compliance is not entirely universal. In October 2012, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland found the highest number of food safety breaches by businesses in a decade (a total of eighteen; a further fourteen were found in November). Food legislation is there to maintain standards in the public’s interest; students who wish to learn more about the role of regulatory authorities can do so by enrolling in UCD’s MSc in Food Safety and Risk Analysis. This is a one-year full-time conversion course aimed at graduates with an appropriate bachelors qualification and a rudimentary knowledge of food safety (with relevant work experience an advantage). Those who complete the course will be well placed to secure a role within a regulatory agency or proceed to PhD-level research.
A similar option is DIT’s MSc in Food Safety Management, which covers all areas relating to food safety – the dangers (microbial, chemical, etc.); safety issues in food production; regulatory, consumer, and legal concerns; food safety management tools; and a unique Integrated Food Safety Management Case Study, through which students can apply their knowledge in a food company environment.
Other food science and technology options at DIT include the MSc in Food Safety Management and the MSc in Culinary Innovation and Food Product Development – the later of which is a unique programme that bridges the areas of food science, business and culinary arts. Thanks to multi-disciplinary modules such as Gastronomy and Culture, New Food Business Creation and Sports and Exercise Nutrition, graduates are provided with extensive career options, including food product management, haute cuisine restaurants, as well as the possibility of further study.
Research avenues are available to students in both UCD and UCC. Among the research areas of particular interest in UCD are the development of new ingredient technologies and ensuring the security and safety of the food chain.
The central role that nutrition plays in our physical and mental well-being has long been recognised, but appreciation of it continues to grow and ingrain itself in the public consciousness. The announcement of new food labelling legislation (which is set to replace rules originally put in place as far back as 2000) is something of an acknowledgment of this fact, with companies now having to communicate nutritional information more clearly to end users. This will undoubtedly have a strong impact on both public health and on consumers’ purchasing decisions. Such heightened awareness creates greater demand for expertise in the field, thus opening several career opportunities for graduates of nutritional science courses.
Among the courses on offer to students interested in this area are UCD’s MPH in Public Health (Nutrition) and UCC’s MSc in Nutritional Sciences, the former of which can be taken as either a one- or two-year option, depending on whether students wish to study the topic on a full- or part-time basis; the latter course, on the other hand, can only be taken full time and runs for one year. While the MSc course tends to focus on the nutritional science techniques, and the relationship between nutrition and the development of disease (with module choices including Advances in Vitamins and Other Dietary Bioactives and Food Toxicology), the MPH degree aims to supply students with a keen understanding of public health practices and policies. Both courses require that students submit a dissertation (note, however, that the thesis subject will be allocated in the case of the MPH degree).
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