Foodborne Illness Outbreak Investigation for One Health Postsecondary Education

J Microbiol Biol Educ. 2021 Aug 31;22(2):e00129-21. doi: 10.1128/jmbe.00129-21. eCollection 2021 Fall.


One Health concepts were incorporated in a foodborne disease outbreak investigation with game features of data presented as visual and manipulative clues. Postsecondary pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences students and food science students (n = 319) enrolled in an introductory animal and food sciences course over a 3-year period received a brief introduction to foodborne illness, an outbreak scenario, and investigative tasks to complete individually or in groups. Tasks addressed epidemiology, laboratory, environment, traceback, recall, and prevention concepts. Gamification of the exercise involved generation of a numerical code to unlock a combination lock as an indication of successful organization, compilation, and interpretation of data. Students presented investigation findings and responses to critical thought questions on their roles. Student surveys on engagement and self-perceived change in conceptual understanding indicated that nearly all expressed increased understanding of outbreak investigations, safe food production, and environmental water as a transmission vehicle. Volunteered learned concepts indicated enhanced appreciation for the complexity of food safety and interdisciplinary connections. Students enjoyed the exercise (92%) and cited the clues and group interaction among the most enjoyable features. Objective assessment of student conceptual learning with the subset of students who conducted the investigation individually (n = 58) demonstrated significant increase in correct test responses (49% pretest; 76% posttest) after completion of the investigation for all questions combined and across all learning objectives. These data demonstrate the value of a foodborne disease investigation with escape room gamification features for engaging students in One Health concepts and exercising problem-solving, critical thinking, and skills for independent and collaborative work.

Keywords: One Health; education; environment; epidemiology; escape room; food safety; investigation; microbiology; problem-based learning; public health.