Cryptosporidiosis and giardiasis are major public health concerns. The role of water and food in the epidemiology of these diseases is now well recognized. Molecular techniques are available to determine the species and genotypes of Cryptosporidium and Giardia and to distinguish human from non-human pathogens. Validated methods to determine the species, genotype and subgenotype that are present in heterologous mixtures should be applied to environmental samples to enable the monitoring and characterization of infection sources, disease tracking and the establishment of causative links to both waterborne and foodborne outbreaks. Meaningful interpretation of population structures and occurrence-prevalence baselines can be performed only by analysing a well-planned set of samples from all possible sources taken regularly over time, rather than focusing on outbreak investigations. For food, this includes such analyses in the country of origin.