With one professor, one room, and two support staffers, the Department of Food Science opened its doors in 1946 to bring food-related science, education, and research to Rutgers. This year, the department celebrates its 70th anniversary…and its incredible evolution.
Looking back at the history of the Department of Food Science is much like hopping in a time machine and taking a journey through our culture’s relationship with food. In its earliest days—the late 1940s and early 1950s—researchers in the department focused primarily on food processing and canning technology, says professor and former chair Mukund Karwe. Slowly but surely, around the late 1990s and early 2000s, emphasis began to shift onto natural products and the natural functionality of foods (think of the health-boosting lycopene in a tomato for one example). Today, the emphasis has shifted yet again, and this time it’s onto food safety, food microbiology, and nutrition.
Outreach and Research
Take it from Donald Schaffner, extension specialist and distinguished professor in the department: bacteria touches everyone. “Bacteria don’t care whether they’re in your kitchen or in a food processing plant,” he says. “The work we do stretches from making sure that the food is safe in your kitchen, to making sure that restaurants, supermarkets, and food processors of all sizes are safe.”