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Engaging with Controversies in the Food System

Become more confident in making informed decisions about the food you eat by exploring different food controversies.

6,168 enrolled on this course

Hands holding a knife and fork about to eat a plate of stick insects
  • Duration

    3 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours
  • Accreditation

    AvailableMore info
The CPD Certification Service

This course has been certified by the CPD Certification Service as conforming to continuing professional development principles. Find out more.

Learn how to assess the reliability of different sources of food information

Please note this course runs without facilitation

Consumers have never been confronted with so much food choice. Making a decision on what food to eat is affected by many factors, including media reports, diet research findings, and social media.

On this course, you’ll access leading research and expert insights to make sense of some of the most common food controversies - alternative proteins, palm oil, and probiotics.

You’ll understand the viewpoints of stakeholders and reflect on your own food preferences. By improving your knowledge of these food debates, you’ll build the confidence to make more informed decisions about food.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 7 seconds Major food producers and startup entrepreneurs are all searching for more sustainable alternatives to animal products– plant-based meat substitutes, edible insects, lab-grown meat. Will consumers eat them?

Skip to 0 minutes and 22 seconds The rapid global expansion of palm oil production has led to deforestation and the destruction of peatlands, greenhouse gas emissions, human rights violations, and to the loss of biodiversity on some of the planet’s most highly endangered habitats and species.

Skip to 0 minutes and 39 seconds The past decade has seen huge growth in the probiotic industry and its claims about the nutritional benefits of including live microbes in our diet. Can these products really deliver the health benefits they promise?


  • Week 1

    Alternative proteins

    • Welcome to the course

      We start by defining the term 'controversy' and looking at examples we have come across in the media, before introducing the course and the team of educators.

    • Introducing alternative proteins

      The future of protein: is meat consumption on the verge of extinction?

    • Stakeholder perspectives

      Here we will look at the controversy from the varying perspectives of producers and consumers.

    • Analyse & Reflect

      In this section we will use what we've discovered to analyse a newspaper article and reflect on our response to the alternative proteins controversy.

  • Week 2

    Palm oil

    • Welcome

      Palm oil: an investigative task to get the conversation started and an overview of what the Week will cover.

    • Introducing palm oil

      Palm oil has been capturing headlines across the globe. What is it and why is it suddenly such a big issue?

    • Stakeholder perspectives

      A look at the controversy from a range of stakeholder perspectives.

    • Analyse and reflect

      In this section we'll analyse a position statement from WWF and reflect on the what, if any action, we might take as a result of what we've discovered.

  • Week 3


    • Welcome

      Probiotics: a discussion question to get the conversation started and an overview of what the Week will cover.

    • Introducing probiotics

      There are many terms that get used to describe food that is good for our gut health. Here we define probiotics, prebiotics, microbiota and fermentation, and discover why they are turning up in our food.

    • Stakeholder perspectives

      A range of views from the different players: the producers to the consumers.

    • Analyse and reflect

      An opportunity to read about the pros and cons of probiotics and make up your own mind about their importance.

Who is this accredited by?

The CPD Certification Service
The CPD Certification Service:

The CPD Certification Service was established in 1996 and is the leading independent CPD accreditation institution operating across industry sectors to complement the CPD policies of professional and academic bodies.

When would you like to start?

  • Date to be announced

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Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Identify the stakeholders and reflect on the complexity of the food supply chains
  • Explore the policies of national governments and the EU and minimise the food supply chains disruptions
  • Discuss the control measures in place to ensure the integrity of our food supply chains
  • Describe the innovations that are helping stakeholders of the agri-food supply chains cope with increased demand
  • Assess the consequences of a crisis on the integrity of the food supply chains
  • Summarise your own personal contribution to the problem and explore how you could contribute to the solution.

Who is the course for?

This course is for anyone curious about what their food contains, and what this means for their health and the environment. Professionals in the food and environment sectors will find this course useful for providing an up to date analysis of topical debates. Teachers may also find this course a useful resource for their students studying food science subjects.

The Educators won’t be able to join the discussions themselves or respond to individual comments, but the course encourages a strong learning community. The learning is focused around debate and discussion – supporting other learners, sharing your own experience and knowledge, and listening to new perspectives. We hope that you will enjoy interacting with and learning from each other in this way. Don’t forget to comment, reply to other learners and ‘like’ comments.

What do people say about this course?

Wonderful, informative and highly educational course!

"Wonderful, informative and highly educational course! It will definitely lead to a better perspective when analysing information to draw conclusions."

Who will you learn with?

I am an Associate Professor in International Rural Development. I trained as a social anthropologist. My research centres around understanding systemic change in agrarian environments.

I am a Senior Manager at the European Food Information Council. My role is creating science-based content on nutrition and health whilst leading communication activities for EU research projects.

I’m a professor in food microbiology at the University of Torino, Department of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences. My research focuses on food safety and microbial ecology of fermented foods.

Who developed the course?

EIT Food

EIT Food is Europe’s leading food initiative, working to make the food system more sustainable, healthy and trusted.

University of Reading

The University of Reading has a reputation for excellence in teaching, research and enterprise.

European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT)

The European Institute of Innovation & Technology strengthens Europe’s ability to innovate by powering solutions to pressing global challenges and by nurturing entrepreneurial skills in Europe’s largest innovation ecosystem.

Endorsers and supporters

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Learning on FutureLearn

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