Food Toxicology

Number of ECTS: 6   Price: 720 €
Teaching Language: English Place: Building J
Bellaterra Campus, 08193 Bellaterra

Teaching Period: 26 June to 14 July


Teacher: Eva Castells

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Contents overview

We ingest toxic substances every day throughout our diet. Some of these substances are deliberately added to food during processing (e.g. additives), others occur naturally (toxins from microorganisms, plants and animals), and yet others are incorporated into food as a result of environmental pollution (pesticides, heavy metals and industrial waste substances). How do toxic chemicals end up in our food? Where do they come from? Is there a risk associated with food toxicants? Are all types of food equally healthy? Can we reduce the ingestion of food toxicants?

The science of food toxicology aims to quantify the presence of toxic substances in food, evaluate their adverse effects and establish an acceptable daily intake for consumers. This course will cover basic concepts on food toxicology by combining theoretical classes with student-centered learning activities, including laboratory practical classes, student presentations, computer simulations, games, class discussions, videos, readings, case studies, and a toxic potluck for the final day of class. Most of the learning activities will be held during the presencial lectures but some activites will require homework. The student is expected to work individually and collaboratively with the rest of the class.


  • Description of the course contents and learning objectives
  • To be [toxic] or not to be (Introduction to toxicology)
  • Toxic substances in food: from natural to man-made chemicals (Types of food toxicans)
  • The dose makes the poison (Quatitative toxicology)
  • No place on earth is free from pollutants (Environmental toxicology)
  • How toxics get into your body (Toxicokinetics)
  • The harmful effects of food toxicants (Toxicodynamics)
  • Is our daily food safe? (Risk assessment)
  • From toxic alerts to product labels (Toxicology and society)
  • Overview of the course contents

Teaching / learning activities

  • Computer-based activity and essay writing: calculate the ingestion of food toxicants
  • Laboratory practical class
  • Collaborative learning activity
  • Computer-based activity: search for toxicological information
  • Editorial reading
  • Student presentations
  • Laboratory practical class
  • Visualization of a documentary and discussion
  • Final written test
  • Case study
  • Final activity: Toxic potluck
Accomplishment of the course contents will be evaluated through class activities (70% of the final score) and a final written test (30% of the final score). Assistance to all classes is mandatory.

Essay writing: dealine June 29th
Quiz on the laboratory practice num. 1: June 29th
Quiz on the laboratory practice num. 2: July 5th
Student presentations: from July 3rd to July 10th
Final test: July 11th

Links and references
Deshpande SS. Handbook of Food Toxicology. CRC Press, 2002
Burcham PC. An introduction to Toxicology. Springer, 2014
Timbrel JA. Principles of biochemical toxicology. Taylor & Francis, 2000
Hill MK. Understanding Environmental Pollution. Cambridge University Press, 2010
Codex Alimentarius (FAO / WHO)
European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)
NIH tutorial on principles of toxicology