Institute for Sustainable Food Systems (ISFS)
Food Systems and Human Health

Food is a basic need to sustain human life, and the quantity and quality of food is a key determinant of the health of populations. Providing the growing global population with nutritious and safe foods is a considerable challenge. More than half the world’s population is adversely affected by malnutrition in all its forms, including undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies, overweight and obesity. Four percent of the global disease burden in 2013 was attributed to dietary risk factors (particularly in industrialized countries) and three percent to child and maternal malnutrition (particularly in sub-Saharan Africa).

Annually, 1 out of 10 people in the world suffer from foodborne disease. People living in low-income areas are disproportionately affected. Children under five years of age make up 9% of the world population, but suffer from 38% of all foodborne illnesses, succumb to 30% of foodborne deaths and bear 40% of global burden of foodborne disease. Industrialization and globalization of food supplies introduce multiple new opportunities for food to become contaminated with harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites, or chemicals, and to spread to all consumers.

ISFS will integrate systems models for food and human health with models for food production and food security, building on the concept of sustainable diets. Research and teaching will focus on three domains: dietary factors and (chronic) disease, food safety and disease and indirect effects of food systems on human health (linking to the One Health initiative). In all domains, we will work on mapping the current and future food supply in relation to human health by selecting and developing indicators and securing access to relevant databases, by developing and implementing mathematical models to increase understanding of the complex relationships in food systems, by foresight activities and by developing decision support models. We will do research to increase the incomes, nutrition and health of vulnerable populations in low-income countries.

Current Projects

Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Livestock Systems
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) awarded the University of Florida (UF) Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) a $49 million, five-year cooperative agreement to establish the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Livestock Systems (LSIL). The objective of the LSIL is to achieve sustainable improvements in livestock productivity and marketing to increase the incomes, nutrition and health of vulnerable livestock holders. The primary focus of the LSIL will be in in East Africa (Ethiopia and Rwanda), West Africa (Burkina Faso and Niger) and South Asia (Cambodia and Nepal). Website:

Relevant Results

Global burden of foodborne disease:

Havelaar AH, Kirk MD, Torgerson PR, Gibb HJ, Hald T, Lake RJ, Praet N, Bellinger DC, de Silva NR, Gargouri N, Speybroeck N, Cawthorne A, Mathers C, Stein C, Angulo FJ, Devleesschauwer B, on behalf of the World Health Organization Foodborne Disease Burden Epidemiology Reference Group. World Health Organization global estimates and regional comparisons of the burden of foodborne disease in 2010. PLOS Med 2015:12: e1001923. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001923.

Kirk MD, Pires SM, Black RM, Caipo M, Crump JA, Devleesschauwer B, Döpfer D, Fazil A, Fischer-Walker CL, Hald T, Hall A, Keddy KH, Lake R, Lanata CL, Torgerson PR, Havelaar AH, Angulo FJ. World Health Organization estimates of the global and regional disease burden of 22 foodborne bacterial, protozoal and viral diseases, 2010: a data synthesis. PLOS Med 2015;12:e1001921. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001921.

Torgerson PR, Devleesschauwer B, Praet N, Speybroeck N, Willingham AL, Kasuga F, Rokni MB Zhou, XN, Fevre E, Sripa B, Gargouri N, Fürst T, Budke CM, Carabin H, Kirk MD, Angulo FJ, Havelaar A, De Silva N. World Health Organization estimates of the global and regional disease burden of 11 foodborne parasitic diseases, 2010: a data synthesis. PLOS Med 2015;12:e1001920. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001920.

Gibb H, Devleesschauwer B, Bolger PM, Wu F, Ezendam J, Cliff J, Zeilmaker M, Verger P, Pitt J, Baines J, Adegoke G, Afshari R, Liu Y, Bokkers B, Havelaar A, Van Loveren H, Mengelers M, Bellinger DC. World Health Organization Estimates of the Global and Regional Disease Burden of Four Foodborne Chemicals and Toxins, 2010: a data synthesis [version 1; referees: 1 approved with reservations] F1000Research. 2015;4:1393. doi: 10.12688/f1000research.7340.1.

Devleesschauwer B; Haagsma JA; Angulo FJ; Bellinger DC; Cole D; Döpfer D; Fazil A; Fèvre EM; Gibb H; Hald T; Kirk MD; Lake RJ; Maertens de Noordhout C; Mathers CD; McDonald SA; Pires SM; Speybroeck N; Thomas MK; Torgerson PR; Wu F; Havelaar AH; Praet N. Methodological framework for World Health Organization estimates of the global burden of foodborne disease. PLOS One 2015;10:e0142498. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0142498

Lake R, Devleesschauwer B, Nasinyama G, Havelaar AH, Kuchenmüller T, Haagsma J, Jensen H, Jessani N, Maertens de Noordhout C, Angulo FJ, Ehiri J, Molla L, Friday A, Aungkulanon S, Kumagai Y, Speybroeck N. National studies as a component of the World Health Organization initiative to estimate the global and regional burden of foodborne disease. PLOS One 2015;10:e0140319. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0140319

Salomon JA, Haagsma JA, Davis A, Maertens de Noordhout C, Polinder S, Havelaar AH, Cassini A, Devleesschauwer B, Kretzschmar M, Speybroeck N, Murray CJ, Vos T. Disability weights for the Global Burden of Disease 2013 study. Lancet Glob Health. 2015;3(11):e712-723.

Modeling microbial contaminants in food systems:

Hill AA, Dewé T, Kosmider R, Von Dobschuetz S, Munoz O, Hannab A, Fusaro A, De Nardi M, Stevens K, Kelly L, Havelaar A, Howard H, Stärk K. Modelling the species jump: assessing the risk of human infection from novel avian influenzas. Roy Soc Open Sci, 2015;2:150173. doi: 10.1098/rsos.150173.

Van Leuken JPG, Van De Kassteele J, Sauter FJ, Van Der Hoek W, Havelaar AH, Swart AN. Improved correlation of human Q fever incidence to modelled C. burnetii concentration by means of an atmospheric dispersion model. Int J Health Geogr, 2015;14:14. doi:10.1186/s12942-015-0003-y.

Bouwknegt M, Verhaelen K, Rzeżutkac A, Kozyrac I, Maunulad L, Von Bonsdorff C-H, Vantarakise A, Kokkinose P, Petrovic T, Lazic S, Pavlik I, Vasickovag P, Willems KA, Havelaar AH, Rutjes SA, De Roda Husman AM. Quantitative farm-to-fork risk assessment for human adenovirus, norovirus and hepatitis A virus in European leafy green vegetable and berry fruit supply chains. Int J Food Microbiol 2015;198:50-58. doi:10.1016/j.ijfoodmicro.2014.12.013.