UMass opens new food science center as student numbers soar

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food science, Nutrition

The University of Massachusetts Amherst has opened a new $5.6m food technology center to provide state of the art facilities for food science students, after enrollments in its undergraduate program more than tripled in the past five years.

The new Clydesdale Center for Foods for Health & Wellness adds 7,800sq ft of new and renovated chemistry, microbiology and biology laboratory space, incorporating six laboratories - three of which are named for food science industry partners Kraft, ConAgra and PepsiCo, and three for alumni and other major donors.

Head of the UMass food science department Eric Decker said: "Establishing the Clydesdale Center is a terrific example of a research and development partnership between the university, the food science department, its alumni and the food industry to make foods part of our preventive health care strategy."

He said that the number of undergraduate students enrolling in the university's food science program has more than tripled over the past five years, from 25 to 80, which he suggests is a reflection of changing public attitudes toward food.

"People are starting to move beyond the artistic and more toward an appreciation of the science of food,"​ Decker said. "The number one priority of food companies now is to improve health and wellness. They are our partners in developing ways to make the food supply healthier and safer, with a lower incidence of pathogen outbreaks, a high and stable nutritional value, great flavor, texture and convenience."

The sharp rise in the number of food science students has been experienced across the country. The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) said last month that overall, the number of students graduating with B.S. degrees in IFT-approved food science programs has nearly doubled since 2004, from 319 to 591 in 2010. It said that increased interest in food in general is behind the trend, boosted by the rise of celebrity chefs, diet-related health issues and greater awareness of contemporary food movements, such as local, organic and sustainable food systems.

A website dedicated to the new Clydesdale Center can be found here: www.umass.edu/foodsci/clydesdale-center​.

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