Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Bromatology - Erudition in Nutrition

Bromatology, Food science
Now this would be my kind of bromatology
(photo by House of Switzerland)


Noun. Rare. Early 19th century.
[from Greek bromat-, broma food + -OLOGY.]

The science of food; a treatise on this.

Have you ever wondered who does all the research and compiles all the nutritional information that goes onto a food label? No, neither have I. But I can tell you who does it - a bromatologist, that's who. And what a career! Tell me - who wouldn't want to be a food scientist? Tasting ice-cream all day, writing a practical thesis on what's just the right amount of peppercorn sauce to go with your fillet steak, and then washing it all down with a treatise on beer. Lots and lots of beer. That's what food science is all about, and if it's not, it should be.

Bromatology, Nutritional information, Food science
Comprehensive food labelling sure does kill the romance
(photo by J.Dickert)
Except it's not. Trust scientists to suck the fun out of everything (even food) - they don't even use the wonderfully obscure word bromatology to describe their work, preferring instead to use the tastelessly lucid term Food Science (sometimes with Technology tagged onto the end). The never-ending party people at the Institute of Food Science & Technology define their discipline in a manner too mind-numbingly dull to replicate here, so let's just say it encompasses materials, nutrition, sensory studies, enzymology, microbiology, pharmacology and toxicology (so no double-dipping the celery at their Christmas parties).

Testing peanut butter. Sounds fun, but clearly it's not
(photo by UGA College)
Personally, I feel that these guys could do a lot to improve the prestige of their profession (perhaps gaining some much needed meat cred). Firstly, more tasting, and more eating of foods generally as part of their studies. Secondly, drop the needlessly open and transparent terms for your work - you're bromatologists, schooled in the dark arts of aristology and philopastryphy (that kind of works), so stand up and be counted as such.

Are you a bromatologist?

Do you actually read all that stuff they write on the labels?

Do you work in an ice-cream factory?

Do please leave your most sinfully delicious comments below.


  1. If your profession had as cool a name as Bromatology, why would you undersell it as 'Food Science'?

    That's like a dermatologist, attempting to chat-up a girl at a party, describing himself as 'someone who sort of messes about with eczema for a living.'


    1. Are all professional monikers judged according to their usefulness in chatting up girls at parties?

    2. I don't make the rules ed, so don't shoot messenger, but yes.

      I mean who would you rather date, if you were this mysterious Monica person - Clueless the Bryologist or Clueless the guy that gets quite excited about liverworts?

      As it happens Clueless is a window cleaner, and so tends to avoid parties.


  2. I do actually read the nutritional information. I'm very grateful for it too. The other day I was kindly alerted to the fact that my pot of natural yoghurt contained dairy, and then I read another warning, which frankly saved me from huge embarrassment, sternly pointing out that my packet of mixed fruit and nuts did in fact contain Nuts!
    Well done bromatologists! Keep up the good work.

    1. Well I once saw a packet of a "sodium-free salt" which, like your zealously labelled packet of nuts, is just nuts (with a bit of a fruitiness thrown in).

  3. I discovered yesterday that the colour in jelly babies comes from nettles and black carrots. So that's two of my five-a-day sorted.

    1. I discovered today that there's such a thing as black carrots - thank you, Sally Prue ...

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