Food Safety and Defense Graduate Certificate Program

Iowa State University, Kansas State University, the University of Nebraska (Lincoln), and the University of Missouri (Columbia) provide food safety and defense distance education courses and have established a multi-state agricultural consortium to develop and deliver high-priority collaborative distance education programs in the food and agricultural sciences. This program prepares graduate students and food-related professionals to effectively deal with food safety and biosecurity issues.

See GPIDEA for further information.

Food safety education need

The distance education Food Safety and Security certificate program serves the needs of industry and agencies that must protect the human food supply from accidental or deliberate contamination with pathogenic microbes and/or toxicants. In an era of terrorism and global food systems, effective control of foodborne hazards requires advanced education.

This online certificate allows food industry personnel to pursue more in-depth specialized training in food safety and security that is pertinent to their job, while working full-time.

Student profile

Many food-related industry and agency professionals have a B.S. in some aspect of food and agricultural sciences or related area and a good technical background and work experience. They typically have time constraints and/or interests that don’t allow for the pursuit of a full graduate degree.

Tuition disbursement: Students pay the same amount per credit, regardless of in-state or out-of-state status.

Enrollment: Certificate enrollments of 20-25 students per year are typical.

Completion: Certificate completion typically takes 2-3 years, taking 1-2 courses per semester.

Learning outcomes

  • Synthesize a current and multi-faceted picture of key food safety and security issues.

  • Apply in real-world situations the scientific principles of microbial and chemical risk assessment and analysis related to food safety and security issues.

  • Analyze and apply the concepts of HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) programs, as well as other safety and security approaches, in the management of food safety and security in food systems.

  • Evaluate food safety and security issues in the food industry using the perspectives of sound science, critical thinking, and ethical reasoning.


The online certificate includes a minimum of 12 credits:

  • 8-9 credits in core courses
  • At least 3 elective credits

Topics include:

  • Food microbiology
  • Foodborne toxicants
  • Food safety and security overview
  • Food laws
  • Risk assessment
  • Food biotechnology
  • Rapid food microbiological methods
  • Food allergy
  • Food fermentations

Participating universities: Each participating university offers at least one course on a regular basis.  Each participating university cross-lists the other university course offerings as part of their course offerings.  Students must meet admissions requirements for the Master of Science degree in Food Science or equivalent degree at their respective universities.

Admission Requirements

  • Successful applicants must be a graduate of an accredited institution and normally must rank in the upper quartile (3.0 grade point average) of their class to gain admission.

  • GRE general scores are required of all students.

  • Undergraduate preparation should include emphasis in chemistry and biology or food science.

  • To apply, follow the same instructions/procedures for Food Science and Technology Admission.

Courses and seminars

Core and elective courses total a  minimum of 12-13 credit hours.

Core courses (8-9 credit hours)

  • FSHN 523 A Multidisciplinary Overview of Food Safety and Security (2 credit hours), Kansas State University. This course provides students with an overview appreciation and understanding of the many multidisciplinary aspects of food safety and security. Such an overview will inform and enhance preparedness, prevention, response, and recovery related activities.

  • FSHN 529 Foodborne Toxicants (2 credit hours), Iowa State University. Quantitation, metabolism, and mechanisms of action of major foodborne toxicants. Toxicant defense and control systems, risk analysis and assessment, and application of food laws.

  • Choose either FSHN 521 or 524

  • FSHN 521 Microbiology of Food (2 credit hours), Kansas State University. This course deals with the identification, enumeration, and characterization of bacteria, yeast, and molds associated with foods and food processing. Effects of physical and chemical agents on microorganisms will be studied. Microbiological problems in food spoilage, food preservation, food fermentation, and foodborne diseases will be discussed.

  • FSHN 524 Food Microbiology (3 credit hours), University of Nebraska, Lincoln. (Prerequisite: microbiology, organic chemistry, biochemistry or permission.) Nature, physiology, and interactions of microorganisms in foods. Introduction to foodborne diseases, the effect of food processing systems on the microflora of foods, principles of food preservation, food spoilage, and foods produced by microorganisms. Food plant sanitation and criteria for establishing microbial standards for food products.

  • FSHN 525 HACCP (2 credit hours), Kansas State University. A comprehensive study of the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point System and its application in the food industry.

Elective courses (at least 4 credit hours)

  • FSHN 528 Food Protection and Defense—Essential Concepts (2 credit hours), Kansas State. University foundational concepts relevant to protecting the food supply from intentional contamination. The nature of the food and agriculture system as a critical infrastructure, policy and regulatory aspects of food defense, threats to food and agricultural systems, as well as concepts and strategies related to response and mitigation of food protection incidents.

  • FSHN 403 Food Laws and the Regulatory Process (2 credit hours) Iowa State University. (Prerequisite: 3 credits in food science coursework at 200 level or above.) History of the development of the current federal and state food regulations. Guidelines that govern the practice of regulating the wholesomeness of red meats, poultry, and eggs. Presentations by state and federal food regulators. Non-major graduate credit.

  • FSHN 522 Advanced Food Biotechnology (2 credit hours) University of Missouri, Columbia. Principles of food biotechnology, including introduction of molecular biology and enzyme immobilization. Theory and concepts of current biotechnology trends as it relates to food safety and security issues.

  • FSHN 526 Ethnic Foods: Food Safety, Food Protection and Defense Challenges (2 credit hours), University of Missouri, Columbia. Factors that impact safety of ethnic and imported ethnic foods; knowledge about the handling, preparation, processing, and storage of ethnic and imported foods and food products; science-based characterization of representative ethnic foods and ingredients;  culturally appropriate strategies to address the food safety challenges posed by ethnic foods, for example, GMPs, HACCP; and an understanding of food protection/defense issues and challenges and  appropriate responses to reduce risks and develop and manage food protection and defense efforts in ethnic food facilities.

  • Choose either FSHN 617 or FDSCI 713

  • FSHN 627 Rapid Methods in Food Microbiology (2 credit hours) Iowa State University. (Prerequisite: food microbiology.) This course will provide an overview of rapid microbial detection methods, both current and in development. Topics will include: historical aspects of rapid microbial detection, the current state of microbiological testing, basic categories of raid testing (phenotypic tests, genotypic tests, whole cell tests, etc.), existing commercial test formats and kits, automation in testing, sample preparation, and “next generation” testing formats not in development.

  • FDSCI 713 Rapid Methods and Automation in Microbiology (2 credit hours), Kansas State University.

    Rapid Methods and Automation is a dynamic area in applied microbiology dealing with the study of improved methods in the isolation, early detection, characterization, and enumeration of micro-organisms and their products in clinical, food, industrial, and environmental samples. This workshop will focus on the practical application of conventional and new commercial systems of rapid identification of micro-organisms from medical specimens, foods, etc. On-campus short course.

  • FSHN 527 Microbiology of Fermented Foods (2 credit hours), University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Physiology, biochemistry, and genetics of microorganisms important in food fermentations. How microorganisms are used in fermentations and the effects of processing and manufacturing conditions on production of fermented foods.

Cross listing: Each participating university will cross-list the other university course offerings as part of their course offerings.

Credit for equivalent courses: It is possible that a student may already have taken one or more of these courses or their equivalent on another graduate degree or certificate program. Upon approval by the Director of Certificate Studies, 2 hours of credit could be accepted toward the 12 hour minimum required for this certificate.

Converting credits. Students who are admitted may earn the non-degree Food Safety and Security Certificate and may use those credits for subsequent degrees. Courses converted from the certificate to a degree program must meet Iowa State University department, college, and graduate curricular guidelines.

  • Contact Information

    Suzanne Hendrich
    Director of Certificate Studies Ph. D. University Professor


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