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Teaching outbreak investigation to undergraduate food technologists

Hanne Karlsen (Department of Food Technology, Sør-Trøndelag University College, Trondheim, Norway)
Lisbeth Mehli (Department of Food Technology, Sør-Trøndelag University College, Trondheim, Norway)
Erik Wahl (District Office of Trondheim and Orkdal, Norwegian Food Safety Authority, Trondheim, Norway)
Ragnhild Lyngved Staberg (Faculty of Teacher and Interpreter Education, Sør-Trøndelag University College, Trondheim, Norway)

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Article publication date: 2 February 2015




Investigations of food-borne outbreaks are complex and require multidisciplinary collaboration. The purpose of this paper is to help food technologists face this challenge and be competent members of a multidisciplinary team, a study module on the investigation of a “real-life” food-borne outbreak was developed.


The module design was based on the principles of inquiry-based learning with the purpose to motivate and activate students with challenging assignments. The didactic impact of the module was evaluated as a qualitative case study with questionnaires, reflection assignments and interviews of students and lecturers.


A teaching module developed by an external professional taking part in the academic environment provides a learning environment well adapted to the curriculum, as well as bringing first-hand realism and enthusiasm into the classroom. The external lecturer’s dedication to the subject was appreciated by the students. A majority of the students believed that the outbreak investigation simulation play gave a better understanding of how food-borne outbreaks are investigated. A majority of the students 68 per cent (2011) and 82 per cent (2012) believed that what they learned in this module would be useful in a future work situation.

Research limitations/implications

There are some limitations to the study, the most important one being the small sample size, and as the classes rarely exceeds 30 students, the use of a control group was not logistically feasible.


Teaching food technologists to become knowledgeable professionals in this field will constitute a valuable contribution to the multidisciplinary food-borne outbreak investigation team. In turn, this may increase confidence among the general public in the food industry.



The authors would like to acknowledge the financial support from The Research council of Norway, regional funding VRI Trøndelag (project number MOB09017) and financial support from Sør-Trøndelag University College.


Karlsen, H., Mehli, L., Wahl, E. and Staberg, R.L. (2015), "Teaching outbreak investigation to undergraduate food technologists", British Food Journal, Vol. 117 No. 2, pp. 766-778.



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