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How Public Health Professionals Can Improve Food Safety

Foodborne illnesses are an issue in every country around the world, but with a Master of public health degree, you can help.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 1 in 6 people in the United States gets sick from eating contaminated foods each year. Foodborne diseases cause 48 million illnesses annually in the U.S., leading to hospitalization for 128,000 people and 3,000 deaths.* In every country in the world, foodborne diseases are a problem that can be prevented, says the World Health Organization (WHO). Worldwide, there were 600 million foodborne illnesses resulting in 420,000 deaths in 2010, and 40% of those illnesses were in children under the age of 5.

Food safety is an important issue for us all, and detecting, managing, and preventing the spread of foodborne illnesses is an important goal for many in public health careers. One of the goals of the Healthy People 2020 plan is to reduce infections from certain foodborne bacteria by helping Americans follow food safety practices both at home and in restaurants. If you’re looking to earn a Master of Public Health degree and help meet these goals, learn more about how public health professionals work to improve food safety.

How Public Health Professionals Can Improve Food Safety

What Causes Foodborne Illnesses?

There are more than 250 different foodborne diseases caused by a variety of bacteria, viruses, and parasites. In the U.S., Salmonella, Escherichia coli (E. coli), and Listeria monocytogenes are some of the bacterial pathogens that cause food poisoning, while Norovirus is a common viral pathogen.§ Symptoms of these infections can include nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and diarrhea, and while most symptoms pass without medical treatment, foodborne illnesses can at times be severe and even lead to death. Pregnant women, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems are at greater risk for developing food poisoning.

Any foods can become contaminated, including meats, leafy greens, frozen foods, nuts, and cheese, and an outbreak of a foodborne illness occurs when two or more people have the same contaminated food or drink and get the same illness. The CDC’s Foodborne Disease Outbreak Surveillance System works with state and local health departments to investigate outbreaks of foodborne diseases, collecting data to track the source of an outbreak and prevent it from spreading further.**

What It Takes to Become a Food Safety Expert

Many foodborne disease specialists have earned a Master of Public Health degree. Great MPH programs include courses on topics such as biostatistics, epidemiology, environmental health, and public health administration. Once you’ve earned your MPH degree, you’ll be ready for a career as a health officer, disease investigator, public health information officer, epidemiologist, or health policy advisor, with the skills and knowledge to improve food safety in communities around the world.

Making a Difference

A public health degree is perfect for anyone who wants a career focused on the well-being and safety of others. As a public health professional, you’ll have a wide range of rewarding career options improving food safety and fighting disease outbreaks. With a Master of Public Health degree (MPH) from Walden University, you can earn a college degree and join a global community of professionals tackling issues such as stopping foodborne disease outbreaks and improving the lives of people around the world. Earning a Master of Public Health can help you get one of the many jobs in public health available today.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering a Master of Public Health degree program online. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.

Walden University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission,

*U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Food Safety, on the internet at

†World Health Organization, WHO Estimates of the Global Burden of Foodborne Diseases, on the internet at

‡Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Food Safety, on the internet at

§U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Foodborne Illnesses and Germs, on the internet at

**U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Foodborne Disease Outbreak Surveillance System, on the internet at