A food process engineer is responsible for the operation of one or all of the various stages of food processing, such as the manufacturing, modifications, and packaging of a particular food product. A food process engineer must ensure that food is safe for human consumption. She also must make sure that the food manufacturing and packaging processes are cost-effective and efficient.
There are many steps in food processing. On one end, the food product must be developed and manufactured. Then, on the other end, it must be packaged and prepared for delivery. This type of engineer may be responsible for each step, from one end to the other, or specialize in a particular area. As the food is being manufactured, modified, and, ultimately, packaged, she must make sure that the conditions are hygienic and that the product is safe and free from harmful microbes.
In many cases, the engineer must understand how solids, liquids, and gases behave. Depending on the kind of plant where a food process engineer is employed, her duties may vary. For example, ice cream is typically aerated. So, if she is hired to work at an ice cream production plant, she may be required to understand how much gas is needed to properly aerate the ice cream and how a particular gas will affect the ice cream.
At some food processing plants, a food process engineer may be responsible for developing a food product. For some food products, development has already been well established, but for other products, she may need to decide what steps are required in its manufacturing. She may also need to figure out what materials are needed. In addition, she may need to know how much heat or cooling the product needs to sterilize, pasteurize, cook, dry, or evaporate it.
The equipment at the plant may play a large role in the duties of a food processing engineer. In some cases, she may be required to work with mechanical engineers to design new equipment. In other cases, she may be required to choose the best available equipment for a particular purpose. She may need to instruct others on how a piece of equipment works and what factors will cause the equipment to produce a low-quality food product.
A food process engineer can work in a variety of settings. For example, she may be employed by the food industry, but she may also work for the pharmaceutical or chemical industries. Some are employed by the government or universities, while others work for private companies. Typically, a process engineer may work hand-in-hand with other engineers and scientists, sales people, plant managers, and construction people on a daily basis.