Food Safety and Defense Graduate Certificate

Online and Distance Education Program

food safety scientist holding a petri dish
Ag*IDEA Program

The online Food Safety and Defense, Graduate 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.

Students choose this program to:

  • Synthesize a current and multi-faceted picture of key food safety and security issues.
  • Apply the scientific principles of microbial and chemical risk assessment and analysis to real world 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, to 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 Food Safety & Defense online graduate certificate program is an inter-institutional certificate program being offered as part of the Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance (GPIDEA / AGIDEA), in cooperation with Iowa State University, Kansas State University, and the University of Missouri.

Career Outlook

This online certificate can complement a graduate degree program or allow food industry professionals to advance their careers while working full-time to pursue in-depth specialized training.

Ag*IDEA Program Ag*IDEA is an affiliate of the Great Plains IDEA, a national consortium of universities that offer programs and courses in agriculture disciplines. The Ag*IDEA's membership of top accredited universities offer master's degrees and graduate certificates fully online from top faculty.


Core Courses
FDST 805: Food Microbiology (3 credits) Prereqs: Microbiology, Organic Chemistry, Biochemistry, or permission. Nature, physiology, and interactions of microorganisms in foods. Introduction to food-borne 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.
FDST 871: Multidisciplinary Overview Of Food Safety And Security (2 credits) Topics include food safety policy, ag bioterrorism, border security, animal ID, food defense and site security, risk analysis, crisis communication, epidemiology, HACCP, and more.
FDST 872: Principles of HACCP (2 credits) A comprehensive study of the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point System and its application in the food industry.
FDST 873: Foodborne Toxicants (2 credits) Mechanisms of action, metabolism, sources, remediation/detoxification, risk assessment of major foodborne toxicants of current interest, design of HAACP plans for use in food industries targeting foodborne toxicants.
Elective Courses
FDST 855: Microbiology of Fermented Foods (2 credits) High speed internet connection required. Contact the instructor for further information. 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.
FDST 874: Food Laws, Regulations, and the Regulatory Process (2 credits) Prereq: Three credit hours in Food Science course work. FDST 874 has presentations by state and federal food regulators. History of the development of the current federal state food regulations. Guidelines that govern the practice of regulating the wholesomeness of red meats, poultry, and eggs.
FDST 875: Rapid Methods in Food Microbiology (2 credits) The different types of rapid microbial detection approaches available for use in foods. Commercial reagents and detection platforms, and the “next generation” approaches currently under development in academia or industry. Challenges to detection posed by the complexity of most food matrices and the sample preparation methods for separating microorganisms from such matrices.
FDST 876: Risk Assessment for Food, Agriculture, and Veterinary Medicine (3 credits) Prereq: Three credit hours of statistics or permission. Risk assessment principles as applied to biological systems. Exposure and effects characterization in human and animal health and ecological risk assessment. Risk analysis frameworks and regulatory decision-making. Introduction to quantitative methods for risk assessment using epidemiological and distributional analyses. Uncertainty analysis.
FDST 877: Advanced Food Microbiology and Biotechnology (2 credits) Basic principles in biotechnology and applied food microbiology. Current topics of interest in food biotechnology. Introduction to recombinant DNA techniques and how they are applied to genetically modify microorganisms. The use of nucleic acids as tools of rapid detection of microorganisms in foods, basic enzyme immobilization and down-stream processing techniques and regulatory aspects of food biotechnology.
FDST 878: Food Protection and Defense: Essential Concepts (2 credits) Foundational concepts relevant to protecting the food supply from intentional contamination. Section 1 addresses the nature of the 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. Section 2 provides an understanding of the principles required in a food defense program for a food manufacturing, warehousing or distribution center.
FDST 896: Independent Study in Food Science and Technology (2 credits) Individual or group projects in research, literature review, or extension of course work under supervision and evaluation of a departmental faculty member.
Tuition and Fees How to Apply Contact Us

Students pay the Ag*IDEA/Great Plains IDEA common price per credit hour for this program. Choose "Online Distance Class (ES)" on the tuition and fees cost estimator page and enter your credit hours in the "AG*IDEA, Great Plains IDEA" boxes.

Clicking "How to Apply" takes you to the Graduate Studies website for additional program and application information.

Graduates of the Food Safety & Defense, Graduate Certificate may find careers in a multitude of areas, including:

  • Food Safety Analyst
  • Food Safety Engineer
  • HACCP Consultant
  • Plant Manager
  • Quality Control Specialist

I like that it's diversified and I can take classes that interest me. It's also easier to get a minor in whatever I want without having to invest additional time in college.

Applied Science Student in Central City, Nebraska

Service you expect from a leading University

  • Access the same student services available to on-campus students
  • An academic adviser will guide you along your journey
  • Career services are available when you are ready to take your next step


  • Combine a number of disciplines to create a unique degree
  • Choose more than 50% of the courses you take as electives
  • Complete coursework during the time of day that works best for you within a select timeframe

Quality learning experience

  • The University of Nebraska has offered distance education courses for more than 100 years
  • Interact with faculty and students through e-mail, discussion forums and chat groups
  • Direct access to world-class faculty – researchers who are experts in their fields or practitioners with real-world experience

To be accepted to this program

  1. A bachelor's degree
  2. 3 letters of recommendation
  3. Resume or curriculum vitae
  4. Statement of purpose

NOTE: This program is authorized, exempt, or not subject to state regulatory compliance and may enroll students from all 50 states

Application Deadlines

Fall Admission: July 15
Summer Admission: April 15
Spring Admission: December 1

Robert Hutkins

Robert Hutkins, Ph.D.


In addition to his teaching responsibilities, Robert Hutkins studies bacteria important in human health and in fermented foods. He is interested in understanding factors that affect persistence of probiotic lactic acid bacteria and bifidobacteria in the gastrointestinal tract.


Online and Distance Education Contact Form - Graduate

Start Preparing for Your Future

Provide your information and we’ll send you what you need to know about earning a graduate degree or certificate from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

I am interested in the following graduate program: