Epidemiology is the study of disease in a population. In terms of food safety, epidemiology is used by industry, academia and government agencies to study the patterns of outbreaks among the populace and identify risk factors (e.g. the emergence of antibiotic-resistance, the prevalence of particularly virulent strains, certain regions or products that are repeat offenders etc).

epidemiologyIn addition to pooling information about human cases, epidemiology can also be applied to the bacteria itself. Advanced testing allows us to characterize bacteria on a variety of levels, from the general species (E. coli) to the specific strain (E. coli O157:H7). In addition, each strain of E. coli O157 can be further characterized, to distinguish one strain from another and determine whether multiple strains implicated in illness are from a common source. These details create a picture of risk – epidemiology seeks to map this risk as well as track sources and patterns of outbreaks.

In the reactive sense, epidemiology is used to trace the source of the pathogen after a problem has been identified and a recall issued, by tracking its movements throughout the food supply (the vehicles), and working backwards to determine a source. Ultimately the goal is to determine the fateful errors that resulted in contamination one by one, eventually pinpointing the root-cause.

Whoops! Article for GFSR Subscribers Only!

Not a subscriber yet? Sign-up for a FREE subscription today!

Get access to this article, along with our other great content, monthly journal, and more.


Sftharticlefooter R1

Visit our Food Safety Training Platform to Access eCourses, Educational Webinars, and More!

Global Food Safety Resource®

GFSR is a leading educational resource for food safety professionals across the globe. Through our online media channels plus Safe Food Training Hub (SFTH) platform, we deliver perspectives, knowledge and training on the latest food safety trends, regulatory compliance, industry standards, and more.

globalfoodsafetyresource.com | safefoodtraininghub.com
Logos Duallockup

Corporate Head Office

503-1316 Kingston Rd.
Scarborough ON
Canada, M1N 0C6

Phone: 1-888-437-7395 x105