Module code: MHUM012

Module Overview

This module covers a variety of important components in foods that arise from the chemical and biochemical transformations which occur during the processing, storage and preparation of foods. It builds on previous knowledge in food science in terms of enhancing the understanding of the complex reactions that occur in foods. This will be done by critically examining the published research in the field, which will be helpful for the research project. The emphasis is focused on understanding how the compounds are formed, the levels present and their role in food safety and acceptability.

Module provider

School of Biosciences

Module Leader

GRASSBY Terri (Biosciences)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 7

Module cap (Maximum number of students): N/A

Overall student workload

Workshop Hours: 17

Independent Learning Hours: 53

Lecture Hours: 19

Seminar Hours: 21

Laboratory Hours: 3

Guided Learning: 9

Captured Content: 26

Module Availability

Semester 1

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

Some of the module content will be co-taught with the undergraduates taking BMS3059 

Indicative content includes: 

Introduction and overview of the module. Presentation of some information on assessment and feedback expectations. 

Critical review of a current peer reviewed publication – what features to look out for in an article. 

Pigment and volatile formation during food processing 

Reactions involving sugars, ascorbate, amino acids and proteins Heterocyclic amine formation and safety considerations 

The chemistry and role of sulphite in foods including safety aspects 

The chemistry and role of nitrate, nitrite and nitroso-compounds, including safety aspects Chemical and enzymatic modification of proteins 

Protein – protein interactions 

Protein – polysaccharide interactions 

Protein-lipid and oxidized lipid interactions 

Trans fatty acids and lipid oxidation products 

The nature of phenols and tannins – introduction to structures and terms 

Phenols and tannins – transformations during processing – e.g. in tea and coffee 

Phenols and tannins – dietary burden, absorption and metabolism 

Phenols and tannins – biological effects and relevance 

Free radicals, radical scavengers and antioxidants 

Antioxidants in vivo and in vitro (including assessment methods and their relevance) 

Bulk sugar replacers 

Workshop on current topics in food Chemistry 

Weekly journal club to practice and demonstrate critical review and presentation skills. 

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Coursework Critical Review (2000 words) 60
Oral exam or presentation Journal club presentation 40

Alternative Assessment


Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate: 

That they can describe, explain and understand the complex reactions that occur during the processing of foods. Provide students with the opportunity to show that they understand the role that these and other compounds have in foods in terms of their safety and acceptability. Develop and demonstrate critical review and presentation/communication skills. 

Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of: 

  • Critical review essay (2000 words) due end of Semester 1. This will be on a topic taught within the first half of the semester. 

  • Journal club presentation (due week 8-11). This will be on a pre-selected journal article where the student will have to present a critical review on the article. 

The critical review essay is designed to test the students’ knowledge of a key topic within food chemistry, their ability to select appropriate sources, critically review them and summarise them concisely in written form, as they may be required to do in their future careers. 

The journal club presentation uses similar skills, but focuses on critically analysing one paper and clear oral communication of the students’ interpretation of the methods, results, data/statistics and conclusions. 

Both assessments will have associated assessment briefs and rubrics, so students can self-assess their work. 

Formative assessment: 

Example journal club presentations will be given by staff, along with recordings from previous years. Students will then be given the opportunity to present at least one paper at the journal club and receive feedback from their peers and an academic prior to attempting the summative assessment. Students will be able to check their understanding of antioxidant assays during the practical. 


Feedback will be given on the critical review and journal club presentation. Rubrics will be used for both assessments. More detailed and individualised feedback will be given on the marked assignment within the time allowed for marking coursework. Feedback on the journal club presentation will be given immediately after the presentation, so it could be used to refine the essay before submission.  

Module aims

  • Provide a deep understanding of key food components in terms of the chemical changes they undergo during processing
  • Provide multiple opportunities to critically review the research literature in the area, including original research, systematic reviews, large cohort studies and meta-analyses
  • Introduce statistical concepts encountered when critically reviewing these papers
  • Link food chemistry to subsequent health effects (both positive and negative)
  • Link food chemistry to the sensory attributes of foods
  • Develop and assess oral and written communication skills

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 Demonstrate an understanding of the complexities of non-enzymic browning using illustrative formulae and equations, and of the role of non-enzymic browning in determining food acceptability KCP E
002 Demonstrate an understanding of of the reactions leading to mutagen formation, the factors that can mitigate their formation in cooked/processed food, and their dietary significance KC GES
003 Demonstrate an understanding of the occurrence and behaviour in foods of nitrate, nitrite and sulphite and present a balanced assessment of their risks and benefits KCPT E
004 Demonstrate an understanding of the reactions for modifying proteins as well as the nature of protein-lipid, protein-protein, protein-polysaccharide interactions and their impact on structure and function KCP E
005 Describe the role of trans fatty acids and lipid oxidation products in foods and their effects on health KCP E
006 Demonstrate a knowledge of the nature and diversity of phenols and tannins in foods, their transformation during processing, technological significance, and the evidence pertaining to their suggested health benefits, illustrated by relevant formulae and mechanisms KCP GED
007 Demonstrate a knowledge of the uses and limitations of bulk sugar replacers in foods. KCT GES

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The module is designed to provide in-depth knowledge of key topics in food science through lectures, seminars, a practical and a journal club, providing examples from around the world. External guest speakers provide material in their areas of expertise. 

Lectures introduce key topics, which are then critically discussed in seminars and the journal club. The extensive reading list acts as a starting point for students to explore topics in depth. The journal club encourages critical thinking and review skills as well as practice in presentation/communication skills. The practical gives an opportunity to use antioxidant assays. Students will also learn how to interpret relevant statistical analyses for significance. All of which will be helpful for the final year research project and future employability. 

The learning and teaching methods include: 

Lectures, which will be recorded, will provide the key points/concepts of each topic. These will be followed by weekly seminars, with the relevant lecturers, to give an opportunity to clarify concepts from the lectures and independent reading. Assessment guidance will be provided in assessment briefs and seminars. There will also be a practical on antioxidant assays and a workshop session on calculating polyphenol intake. The lectures, seminars and practical will be taught with students studying at undergraduate level.  

The journal club, which will be primarily for the postgraduate students, will allow more in-depth discussion and critical analysis of key papers from the extensive reading list or wider literature, facilitating student interaction and oral communication skills.Recordings from previous years will also be available. The journal club will also allow students to hone their critical review skills prior to the assessments. Finally, there will be a Current Topics in Food Chemistry session at the end of the module for lecturers to highlight the research they are currently involved in to encourage students to go on to a PhD in Food Science. 

Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list
Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: MHUM012

Other information

Global and cultural capabilities: This module explores the epidemiological evidence in support of the relationships between dietary polyphenol consumption and various health benefits/risks, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and the risk of cancer using studies conducted across the globe. The module also refers to foods grown, processed and consumed around the world, in particular tea and coffee. There is also reference to the differences in regulations around the world in terms of the use of non-nutritive sweeteners in different product categories. 

Employability: The module provides students with the latest knowledge and understanding of key concepts related to food components, the mechanisms by which they change during processing and their potential health effects, which will be useful when developing new products and their associated processing methods, so that they follow relevant legislation. The practical is an opportunity to use antioxidant assays that may be used in graduate positions. It also equips students with the skills to critically appraise the literature with regards to the health effects of these components. 

Digital Capabilities: Skills in using digital resources (such as using SurreyLearn and literature searching) will be developed during this module. While a selection of relevant literature (e.g. books, original research papers, systematic reviews and meta-analyses) will be provided, students are also encouraged to familiarise themselves with searching and retrieving peer-reviewed literature from online databases (e.g. PubMed, Scopus) and identifying good sources versus questionable ones. Also, using Excel to calculate polyphenol intakes using online databases for polyphenol content.

Resourcefulness and resilience: This module develops critical review and communication skills and applies them to the evaluation of the literature. Students may find giving an oral presentation quite stressful, which is why we will be providing plenty of opportunities to practice this skill and techniques to manage nerves. We will also signpost students to English Language Support as necessary. As part of the formative assessment, students are encouraged to give and receive constructive feedback, within the framework of a rubric, and act on it when preparing their summative assessments. Receiving feedback can be difficult for some, so students will be offered support in interpreting feedback and turning it into action. 

Sustainability: The module provides information on how to reduce the formation and consumption of potentially harmful compounds, such as reducing cooking temperatures/times, which coincidentally reduce impacts on the environment as well as providing a healthier diet. Sustainability is also considered when discussing bulk sugar replacers. 

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Food Science MSc 1 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2023/4 academic year.