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Nutrition And Food ScienceNutrition-And-Food-Science

  • Subject:
  • |
  • Grade(s): 9-12
  • |
  • Duration: 3 class periods

Lesson Plan Sections


Students will
  • Define a food-borne illness and its causes.
  • Describe the symptoms and possible causes of a food-borne illness.
  • Explore how food-borne illnesses can be prevented.


  • Nutrition and Food Science * program
  • Computer with Internet access


  1. After watching the video, ask students to name some assurances that most of the food we buy at stores or restaurants is safe to eat.Examples include the following: Food is packaged to prevent the growth of microorganisms and to maintain its freshness.  Preservatives may be added to prevent spoilage and the growth of molds, yeasts, and bacteria. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) oversees the development, trade, and safety of the nation?s food and drug supply. Inspectors are placed in every meat plant in the country. Local health departments regularly inspect restaurants.
  2. Talk about what happens if food is not safe to eat. What is a food-borne illness and what causes it? (An illness caused by a pathogen, or harmful microorganism, that enters the body through food. ) Explain that the pathogen is usually a bacterium or virus that can come in many forms. For example, more than 2,000 types of the bacteria salmonella are responsible for food-borne illnesses.
  3. Talk about how these microbes cause illness. What happens to the microbes inside the body? (They reach the intestines, attach to their walls, and begin to multiply. Some produce toxins there; others invade deeper body tissues.) How long does it take to feel symptoms? (It ranges from hours or days, depending on how long it takes for the microbe to enter intestines and multiply. ) What are some common symptoms? (diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea )
  4. Explain that harmful microbes can be found in many foods, including fruits, vegetables, and dairy products, particularly raw chicken, eggs, meat, and seafood. The danger zone, or temperature range in which microorganisms thrive, is 40 to 140? Fahrenheit. Below that range, most don?t multiply or they multiply slowly. Above that range, they begin to die. Ask students: How can we use this information to avoid food-borne illness? (Foods that may carry microbes, such as raw chicken, should be refrigerated at 40? Fahrenheit. Then they should be cooked to at least 140? Fahrenheit .)
  5. Share these four basic steps for preventing food-borne illness at home. (From the Partnership for Food Safety Education?s FightBAC campaign. See the Web site below for more details.)
    • CLEAN: When preparing food, always keep hands, preparation surfaces, and serving containers and utensils clean.
    • COOK: Food should be cooked thoroughly and kept hot until it is ready to serve, and leftovers should be reheated before serving.
    • CHILL: Perishable foods should be refrigerated below 40?Fahrenheit or frozen as until served, and leftovers must be refrigerated or frozen within two hours of purchase or cooking.
    • SEPARATE: Avoid cross-contamination. Do not let raw meat or poultry or their juices come into contact with other foods.
  6. Divide the class into five to seven teams. Give each team a slip of paper with one of the following diseases on it. Ask them not to reveal their disease to any other team.
    • botulism (Clostridium botulinum )
    • campylobacteriosis (Campylobacter jejuni )
    • E. coli (Escherichia coli , commonly calledE. coli )
    • perfringens (Clostridium perfringens )
    • salmonellosis (Salmonella )
    • shigellosis (Shigella )
    • staphylococcal infection (Staphylococcus aureus )
  7. Explain that the first part of the assignment is to work in groups to research the disease, including the following factors:
    • specific microorganisms that cause sickness
    • how the microorganism is transmitte
    • symptoms of illness
    • onset (how long it takes for symptoms to appear)
    • any other important details
  8. The next part of the assignment is to create and present a skit about someone who has just come down with this ?mystery illness.? The skit could be a conversation between a patient and doctor or a discussion between two friends or coworkers. The skit should take no longer than five minutes, but it should include enough details to help the audience figure out the patient?s illness. Each skit should reveal the following:
    • any unusual or potentially dangerous food the person ate that day or the preceding three days before getting sick
    • where the food was eaten (home, a friend?s house, a restaurant)
    • how the food was packaged, stored, handled, or prepared
    • other foods that were prepared or bought at the same time
    • the person?s symptoms
  9. The following Web sites provide information about how food-borne illnesses spread, as well as details about the microbes, foods, and symptoms of specific illnesses. Students should begin by finding details about their assigned disease at the first four sites below:

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Use the following three-point rubric to evaluate students' work during this lesson.
  • Three points:  Students provided several details about food-borne illnesses and their causes; presented a clear and accurate skit describing the causes, transmission, onset, and symptoms of a specific food-borne illness; identified several of the diseases presented by the class; cited several ways that food-borne illnesses can be prevented.
  • Two points:  Students provided some details about food-borne illnesses and their causes; presented a satisfactory skit describing the causes, transmission, onset, and symptoms of a specific food-borne illness; identified some of the diseases presented by the class; cited one or two ways that food-borne illnesses can be prevented.
  • One point:  Students provided few or no details about food-borne illnesses and their causes; presented a vague or inaccurate skit, which did not describe the causes, transmission, onset, or symptoms of a specific food-borne illness; identified few or no of the diseases presented by the class; cited few or no ways that food-borne illnesses can be prevented.

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Definition: Dirty, polluted, or infected through contact
Context: The bacteria spread through contaminated ice cream purchased across the United States, causing thousands of consumers to fall ill.

Definition: A scientist who studies the causes, transmission, and control of disease in a population
Context: After 200,000 people across the United States fell ill, doctors, epidemiologists, and pathologists worked to find the culprit.

food-borne illness
Definition: A sickness resulting from a virus, bacteria, parasite, or other microbe that enters the body through food
Context: An estimated 76 million cases of food-borne illnesses occur yearly in the United States.

Definition: The treatment of food with radiation to kill microorganisms and reduce food losses due to spoilage
Context: Food irradiation is a food-safety technology that can eliminate disease as well as spoilage-causing bacteria from foods.

Definition: A microscopic organism, such as a bacterium, virus, mold, fungus, or yeast
Context: Microbes begin to die in environments above 140? Fahrenheit.

Definition: Microscopic living things, such as bacteria
Context: Microorganisms are everywhere: in our air, in the shower, and inside our bodies.

Definition: Substances, including proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals, found in foods that people require stay healthy
Context: While we have an abundant food supply in the U.S., other parts of the world have fewer food choices, which can limit their intake of important nutrients and create serious health consequences.

Definition: A microorganism such as a bacterium or virus that can cause disease
Context: It took several days before the pathogen, the illness-causing microorganism, could be identified.

Definition: To keep or protect from decay
Context: Scientists are working on new types of packaging to help preserve food.

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Academic Standards

Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL)
McREL?s Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education addresses 14 content areas. To view the standards and benchmarks,click here.
This lesson plan addresses the following national standards:
  • Science - Life Sciences: Understands the structure and function of cells and organisms
  • Health: Knows essential concepts about the prevention and control of disease; Knows environmental and external factors that affect individual and community health; Understands essential concepts about nutrition and diet; Knows how to maintain and promote personal health

National Academy of Sciences
The National Academy of Sciences provides guidelines for teaching science in grades K?12 to promote scientific literacy. To view the standards,click hereto visit the Web site.
This lesson plan addresses the following national standards:

  • Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
  • Life Science
  • Science and Technology

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* Note: The food science video segments on the program Nutrition and Food Science were created in partnership with the Institute of Food Technologists and theIFT Foundation.