Food Safety Lesson Plan

Instructor: Joanne Abramson

Joanne has taught middle school and high school science for more than ten years and has a master's degree in education.

Anyone who has ever had food poisoning can tell you that it is a miserable experience. With this lesson plan, you will present to students a short video on food safety then take on the role of investigators to learn more about food-borne illnesses and what they can do to prevent it.

Lesson Objectives

By the end of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • describe how an investigation into an outbreak of food-borne illness is conducted
  • recognize the signs of food-borne illness
  • list several steps they can take at home to avoid food-borne illness


1.5-2 hours

Curriculum Standards


Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9-10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.


Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source.


Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 9-10 texts and topics.

Key Terms:

  • Zoonotic disease
  • Microbe
  • Pathogen
  • Attack rate
  • Incubation period
  • Epidemic curve
  • Incubation period
  • Organic food



  • In pairs or small groups, have students brainstorm a list of diseases that have spread from animals to humans and a list of recent foods or restaurants that have been involved in closures or recalls because of contamination. Have students share their responses with the class.
  • Encourage discussion with the following questions:
    • What facts can you remember about the disease?
    • Where did it originate? Did it spread to the United States?
    • What food products were affected?
    • What food was recalled? Do you remember what the contaminant was?
  • Watch the video Concerns for Food Safety Around the World, pausing at 1:55.
  • Check for understanding with the following discussion questions:
    • What role to veterinarians play in food safety?
    • Why do United States veterinarians travel to other countries to inspect food safety programs?
    • What are zoonotic diseases?
    • What government agencies were mentioned in the video?
  • Continue watching the video, this time pausing at 3:18.
  • Check for understanding with the following discussion questions:
    • Were any of the pathogens on the screen mentioned in our introductory discussion?
    • How many people get sick in the U.S. each year from food-borne illnesses?
    • What is the difference between a microbe and a pathogen?
    • What are the symptoms of food-borne illness?

Activity 1:

  • Project the following information:

Pathogen Incubation Period Symptoms Common Foods
Campylobacter 2-5 days Fever, head ache, vomiting, diarrhea Raw and undercooked poultry, unpasteurized milk, contaminated water
Norovirus 1-2 days Vomiting, severe diarrhea Poorly cooked shellfish, salads or sandwiches prepared by an infected person, contaminated water
Salmonella 1-3 days Fever, head ache, vomiting, diarrhea Eggs, Poultry, Cheese, Unpasteurized milk or juice, raw fruits and vegetables
E. coli 1-10 days Nausea, severe diarrhea, abdominal cramping Undercooked beef or salami, unpasteurized milk or juice, contaminated water
  • Explain to students that in this activity they will act as government agents assigned to investigate a possible outbreak of foodborne illness. They need to locate the source of the food contamination so that it cannot spread further.
  • Students can work individually or in pairs for this activity.
  • Project the scenario:

On December 1, Anytown High School held its reunion for the graduating class of 2000, catered by the Acme Catering Company. 60 alumni attended the event. The menu included baked chicken, grilled cheese sandwiches, egg salad, spinach salad and frozen yogurt.

A few days later, a woman who attended reunion made an appointment with her doctor, complaining of nausea, vomiting, fever, chills and body aches. On December 3, the doctor realized that she had seen several patients that morning with similar symptoms. She began making calls and soon found out that they had all attended the Anytown High School Reunion. She immediately informed the local health department who began an investigation.

The health department ordered Acme Catering Company to close their doors until the source of the illness could be found. Additionally, they sent a survey to the attendees of the reunion asking whether or not they became sick, on what day the symptoms began, and what foods they ate. 23 people responded to the survey. You job is to analyze the information collected so far and pin-point the source of the foodborne illness.

  • Project the results of the survey:

Date Sick Chicken? Grilled Cheese? Egg Salad? Spinach Salad? Frozen Yogurt?
1 3rd Yes No Yes Yes No
2 4th Yes No Yes No Yes
3 Not sick Yes Yes No Yes Yes
4 4th Yes No Yes Yes Yes
5 6th Yes Yes No No Yes
6 3rd No Yes Yes Yes Yes
7 Not sick Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
8 4th Yes No Yes Yes No
9 Not sick No No Yes Yes Yes
10 2nd Yes No Yes Yes Yes
11 3rd Yes Yes Yes Yes No
12 Not sick No Yes No Yes Yes
13 4th Yes No Yes No Yes
14 4th No Yes Yes Yes Yes
15 Not sick Yes No No No Yes
16 5th Yes No Yes No No
17 4th Yes Yes Yes No No
18 3rd No No Yes Yes No
19 Not Sick Yes Yes No Yes Yes
20 4th Yes No Yes No No
21 4th Yes Yes No Yes No
22 5th Yes No Yes No Yes
23 3rd Yes No Yes No Yes
  • Have students calculate the attack rate (the percent of people who became sick) according to the survey.

Number of people who got sick: Number of people who did NOT get sick: Total number of people who completed the survey: Attack rate:
  • Have students calculate the attack rate by food.

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