CPT-38803 Ethics of Food and Nutrition


Credits 3.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Independent study0
Course coordinator(s)prof. dr. MF Verweij
Lecturer(s)prof. dr. MF Verweij
Examiner(s)prof. dr. MF Verweij

Language of instruction:



Modern society faces many problems in relation to health and nutrition: malnutrition, overweight, alcohol abuse, food poisoning, etc. Food and nutrition science can have a great impact on public health, but it is not obvious that scientific progress simply results in better health for all. Just focusing on information and education often will not do. This leads to ethical dilemmas for food and nutrition scientists, professionals, and policy makers. We explore such questions in this course. Are people fully responsible for their health or do governments and companies have responsibility as well? To what extent is it justified to limit people's food choices to promote health (e.g. in the types of foods, portion size, or ingredients) or to nudge persons to make better choices? What can we expect of food companies - should they promote health? Do we have a right to (healthy) food? Often in food policy a distinction is made between nutrition and health, and food safety - but is this distinction as clear as it seems? In this course we explore a variety of problems, and analyse the central concepts that we use to respond to such problems: paternalism, quality of life, justice, trust, responsibility, autonomy, safety, etc. Different ways of ethical thinking are presented and students learn to formulate questions and test ethical arguments. In this way, they reflect on their study area and develop skills to analyse and discuss ethical dilemmas in their future career, and be capable to justify difficult professional choices.

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:
- identify and describe ethical problems with respect to food, nutrition and health, both in scientific, policy and professional practice;
- formulate empirical and normative questions in relation to such problems;
- understand and apply ethical concepts (e.g. quality of life, responsibility, fairness, animal welfare) and theories (consequence-, duty- and virtue oriented approaches);
- presenting and analysing ethical arguments as put forward in debates about specific moral problems in relation to food and nutrition;
- offer a structured ethical discussion of a practical moral problem in relation to food practices and policies.


- attending lectures;
- reading literature;
- case discussions;
- joint reading of excerpts of a book on ethics of food;
- group paper: presenting a book review and preparing ethical deliberation.


Written exam (50%); group paper (50%).


One of these books: Julian Baggini: The virtues of the table, 2014. Peter Singer: and Jim Mason. Eating, 2006. Paul Thompson. From Field to Fork, 2015.
Articles that will be provided in Brightspace.

Restricted Optional for: MNHNutrition and HealthMSc2AF, 6AF