Outbreaks of foodborne disease can have severe consequences for the consumers of the product but also for the company, which need to recall the contaminated food. Therefore, monitoring and tracking foodborne diseases of high importance.
On this course, you will learn how to identify and trace sources of foodborne illness and investigate foodborne outbreaks to reduce the number of illnesses.
Surveillance of foodborne pathogens in animals, food and humans is the basis for successful control and prevention. It is through surveillance that we retrieve data on the burden of foodborne illnesses and the pathogens’ prevalence and distribution, which is knowledge needed to track and identify sources of infection and implement effective interventions.
Furthermore, it is through surveillance that we first detect if a foodborne outbreak is underway, and later hypothesize and trace potential sources of infection.
Through the course, you will be working with real-life examples and case studies.
You will get to review the methods for surveillance of foodborne illnesses and those used for tracing sources of infection for both sporadic and outbreak-related human illnesses. The methodologies are internationally recognized tools, but the results need careful interpretation in the right context. Therefore, you will learn about the individual methods’ strengths and weaknesses.
You will work with the concepts of sensitivity and specificity of monitoring methods and discuss their significance and sample sizes for what is observed. Furthermore, you will go through the steps in foodborne outbreak investigation.
During the course, you will be working with:
- Surveillance of foodborne pathogens in animals, food and humans including sample size estimation, and consideration of the sensitivity and specificity of surveillance systems.
- The most commonly used typing methods used for surveillance and outbreak tracing, including MLST and whole genome sequencing (WGS).
- Descriptive epidemiology aiming to describe e.g., the course of the outbreak and define the extent both geographically and temporally. This also include the characterization of the patients, including age, gender etc. Such information forms among others the basis for generating hypotheses about the source(s) of infection.
- Epidemiological methods including interview studies (e.g. case-control and cohort studies), which aim to identify possible risk factors and sources of infection by asking patients and healthy people about their intake of different foods in a given period and then make a statistical comparison of their responses.
- Defining the chain of command and communication. Preventing foodborne illness in general and finding the specific source of an outbreak requires collaboration between different stakeholder groups e.g., food and public health authorities, researchers (e.g., microbiologists, epidemiologists) and the food industry.
Profile of participants
The master course is relevant for employees in the public and private sector working with food production, particularly, in the intersection between sustainability, food safety and security, and innovation.
Once you have completed the course, you will be able to:
- Describe the principles for surveillance and control of foodborne pathogens in livestock and food
- Explain how typing methods are used in laboratory-based surveillance of human infections
- Analyse and interpret surveillance data
- Explain the operational steps in an outbreak investigation
- Apply epidemiological and microbiological methods to identify, analyse, and trace foodborne disease outbreaks
- Discuss advantages and limitation of microbiological and epidemiological methods used for identifying sources of human infections that are not part of an outbreak (i.e. sporadic cases)
- Support activities to trace and prevent foodborne disease outbreaks
- Recommend further investigations or implementation of measures for future prevention and control of foodborne infections
Outcome for your organization
Your organization gets an employee who will be able to:
- Interpret and explain public health surveillance of foodborne illness in the right context
- Apply state-of-the art methods for analyzing surveillance data
- Analyse relevant data to link consumption of specific foods to human illness
- React to foodborne outbreaks and know who should be involved in the outbreak investigation
- Engage in a wider discussion on how to prevent similar future outbreaks
The course is part of the Master’s programme ‘Master of Sustainable and Safe Food Production‘.
You can follow the course as part of the Master’s programme or you can follow it as a single course. Please note, that to get most out of this course, we recommend that you have passed two other courses linked to the Master’s programme. See more under prerequisites.
Part of the Master’s programme
If you wish to follow the course as part of the Master of Sustainable and Safe Food Production, please go to the Master’s programme page and sign up for the Master’s programme.
If you wish to follow this course as a single course, please sign up by clicking the button ‘Add to basket’ in the top of the page.
To be admitted to this course, you must:
- have achieved a relevant medium-cycle education (a professional bachelor’s degree or the like) or a long-cycle higher education programme
- have a minimum of two years of work experience in the food science and technology field
Furthermore, you must have a solid foundation in the natural sciences (biology, chemistry, mathematics) as well as an understanding of technical processes in food production lines.
Furthermore, basic statistical skills and knowledge of Excel is an advantage.
Education sessions and exam
The course is taught online, the language of instruction is English.
The education sessions consist of e-lectures, Q&A sessions, and assignments.
The e-lectures are available online which means that you can watch them whenever from wherever.
Furthermore, you are offered weekly live Q&A sessions to get in dialogue with the course lecturer and fellow participants.
The majority of the course material will be provided during the course (selected chapters from textbooks, scientific articles, popular science articles, newspaper article, reference webpages).
Information about the software that will be used for outbreak investigation will be provided at course start up.
The assessment consists of an oral examination (counts 75% of the grade) and a report (counts 25% of the grade) describing an outbreak investigation. The report will be based on the analysis of a dataset provided during the course and must be written in English.
The course is offered in the spring in uneven years (2023, 2025, etc.)