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By Ariel Garsow

Individuals in low- and middle income countries experience a disproportionate burden of foodborne disease (Havelaar et al. 2015). In other words, individuals with lack of access to financial or other resources experience more frequent or severe foodborne disease for a longer period of time. With the additional environmental stressors of COVID-19, an increasing amount of individuals will experience food insecurity. Being food secure means having access at all times to safe, nutritious food that is appropriate for one’s culture and lifestyle (Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion 2020).

Pre-pandemic, 820 million people worldwide were identified as food insecure (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations 2019), 135 million of whom were acutely food insecure in levels of crisis, emergency or famine (Food Security and Information Network, Global Network Against Food Crises 2020).

The image below shows the scale of acute food insecurity in Eastern Africa in the last year (Integrated Food Security Phase Classification 2020).

Acute food insecurity in Eastern Africa in the last year

To see data for other countries around the world, you can click on the photo.

Due to travel restrictions and disrupted supply chains from the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of individuals facing acute hunger could nearly double in 2020 (World Food Programme 2020).

In response to the impact of COVID-19 on food security, the United States Agency for International Development released a statement that, “in a vicious cycle, shocks to nutrition will increase vulnerability to COVID-19 and other diseases” (USAID 2020).

What might these shocks to nutrition look like for COVID19?  One illustrative example of a “shock to nutrition” is an increase in mycotoxins due to a locust plague. Mycotoxins are toxins produced by fungi that have been associated with adverse health outcomes such as stunting and liver cancer (Wu, Groopman, and Pestka 2014). Crop damage caused by insects or other pests creates an opportune environment for the fungi to grow and produce mycotoxins. The current locust plague is causing damage to crops which could lead to (1) an increase in food waste, since mycotoxin contaminated crops may be discarded or (2) adverse health outcomes due to the consumption of contaminated crops. Already, due to COVID-19, distribution of needed supplies to control the locusts is taking more time. Additionally, travel restrictions are barring individuals with expertise from traveling to locust-infested areas to provide assistance (Johnson 2020). 

 

It is likely that “shocks” like this will result from the COVID pandemic.  As COVID-19 continues to spread, attaining the UN Sustainable development goals “No Poverty” and “Zero Hunger” by 2030 is becoming even more challenging than they already were (United Nations 2020).

 

References

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2019. “The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World.” 2019. http://www.fao.org/state-of-food-security-nutrition.

Food Security and Information Network, Global Network Against Food Crises. 2020. “2020 Global Report on Food Crises.” https://www.fsinplatform.org/sites/default/files/resources/files/GRFC_20....

Havelaar, Arie H., Martyn D. Kirk, Paul R. Torgerson, Herman J. Gibb, Tine Hald, Robin J. Lake, Nicolas Praet, et al. 2015. “World Health Organization Global Estimates and Regional Comparisons of the Burden of Foodborne Disease in 2010.” PLoS Medicine 12 (12): 1–23. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001923.

Integrated Food Security Phase Classification. 2020. “IPCINFO Website.” 2020. http://www.ipcinfo.org/.

Johnson, Kiersten. 2020. “Tracking the Perfect Storm in West Africa: COVID-19 & Desert Locusts.” 2020. https://www.agrilinks.org/post/tracking-perfect-storm-west-africa-covid-....

Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. 2020. “Food Insecurity.” 2020. https://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topics-objectives/topic/social-determ....

United Nations. 2020. “About the Sustainable Development Goals.” 2020. https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/.

USAID. 2020. “Responding to COVID-19’s Impact on Resilience and Food Security.” 2020. https://www.usaid.gov/who-we-are/organization/bureaus/bureau-resilience-....

World Food Programme. 2020. “COVID-19 Will Double Number of People Facing Food Crises Unless Swift Action Is Taken.” 2020. https://www.wfp.org/news/covid-19-will-double-number-people-facing-food-....

Wu, Felicia, John D. Groopman, and James J. Pestka. 2014. “Public Health Impacts of Foodborne Mycotoxins.” Annual Review of Food Science and Technology 5 (1): 351–72. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-food-030713-092431.


Ariel Garsow

Graduate Research Associate

CFAES Department of Food Science and Technology

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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hamburgers Image by skeeze from Pixabay

By: Devon Mendez

Even with COVID limiting the number of summer events going on this year, many individuals are still finding time to meet in small groups to enjoy some sunshine. Whether this means a barbeque in the backyard with friends, or a picnic in the park, good food safety practices are important in preventing foodborne illness. Rates of foodborne illness, often referred to as “food poisoning,” typically are higher in the summer than other times of year. Proper handling and storage of food is of the upmost importance to ensure the health of you and your family at these events.

What causes most foodborne illness?

The simple answer to this question is bacteria, though viruses can be the culprits as well.  Since bacteria grow everywhere in our environment, it is imperative that we are aware of the risks and ensure that we keep food at safe temperatures. Typically, the danger zone for bacterial growth occurs between 40 to 140 degrees F, making it extremely important to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. While many of these bacteria should be mitigated during food processing, there is always a chance that they may be present. It is for this reason that properly handling and cooking food is imperative to keeping everyone healthy. In the summer, safety may need to be considered in grilling and making sure that foods that need to be refrigerated are not left out too long.

What can you do to keep you and your food safe?

When cooking and consuming food outdoors, the Center for Foodborne Illness (CFI) recommends following six major steps to help minimize the risk of you and your loved ones getting sick from eating during your outdoor activities. These steps include:

  1. Utilize safe water and raw materials
    1. Avoid high risk foods associated with recalls.
    2. Use clean water to wash all fruits and vegetables.
    3. If you are unsure if a food is safe, throw it out.
  2. Clean hands and surfaces
    1. Hands should be washed using warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds to ensure they are clean.
    2. Hands should be washed after handling food, using the restroom, or handling pets.
    3. Use disposable wipes, moist towelettes or paper towels to clean surfaces.
    4. Surfaces should be cleaned often and every time a different food is being prepared.
  3. Separate different foods
    1. Cross contamination is a major cause of food borne illness and is often caused when raw meats or other dirty food encounters another food source, depositing bacteria.
    2. Cross contamination can be avoided by using different cutting boards for different food types (i.e.- one cutting board for raw meats and another for fruits and vegetables).
    3. Ensure all food kept in coolers, especially raw meats, are properly packaged so they do not leak juices onto other foods.
    4. Avoid putting cooked food on the same plate as raw food.
  4. Cook foods to proper temperatures
    1. Using a thermometer when cooking meats is key to ensuring food has reached the proper temperature and is safe to eat.
    2. Cook all meats to the USDA recommended internal temperatures:
      1. Poultry (whole, pieces & ground): 165 °F /74 °C
      2. Ground meats: 160 °F /71 °C
      3. Beef, pork, lamb, and veal (steaks, roasts & chops): 145 °F /63 °C
  5. Keep cold foods cold and refrigerate foods as soon as possible after cooking
    1. It is imperative that all foods that are meant to be cold stay cold to avoid bacterial growth. This can be done by leaving the foods in an ice filled cooler or putting food out in bowls of ice water to keep it cool while people fill their plates.
    2. If possible, keep canned beverages and food in separate coolers so there is less interference with proper cooling of food.
    3. Keep food and coolers out of the sun.
    4. Make sure ice in the cooler is replenished as needed to ensure food stays at a safe temperature.
  6. Report any known foodborne illness
    1. If you become ill, especially if you have bloody diarrhea, go to the doctor and get tested.
    2. If you test positive for a foodborne illness, report it.
      1. Many foodborne illnesses are never reported, making it hard to keep track of the issue.

By following these simple steps, you and your loved ones can significantly reduce the chances of contracting a foodborne illness at your next outdoor barbeque or family picnic. This will also reduce your chance for a hospital visit, something that many would prefer to avoid with COVID-19 cases increasing by the day.


Devon MendezDevon Mendez

CFAES Graduate Practicum Student

Department of Veterinary Preventive Medicine and College of Public Health

 

 

 

 

 
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bleaching food -  photo credit: Getty Image

By: Tracy Turner

I’m really worried about COVID-19 and want to keep my family safe, so lately, I’ve been rinsing my fresh fruits and vegetables with a mixture of bleach and water. That’s safe, right?

No, that is not safe. You should NEVER wash or rinse ANY food product with any form of bleach, disinfectant, or any other household cleaning chemicals.

In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued a notice to consumers alerting them to the dangers of rinsing, soaking, or washing any food products with bleach or disinfectant, after a significant number of consumers have been doing just that.

Calls to poison centers around the country regarding exposures to cleaners and disinfectants have increased sharply since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the CDC said. 

This comes as 42% of consumers who responded to a May 2020 poll conducted by OnePoll on behalf of HelloFresh, said that they worry about the cleanliness of the products they buy and the overall environment while grocery shopping, according to published reports. The survey of 2,000 Americans polled how consumer views on grocery shopping have changed in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

And in a May 2020 online survey of 502 U.S. adults conducted by the CDC, 39% of respondents reported they engaged in at least one of the following high-risk practices with the intent of preventing COVID-19 transmission:

  • Intentionally inhaling or ingesting cleaners and disinfectants
  • Drinking or gargling diluted bleach solutions, soapy water, and other cleaning and disinfectant solutions
  • Using bleach on food products such as fruits and vegetables
  • Applying household cleaning and disinfectant products to hands or skin
  • Misting the body with a cleaning or disinfectant spray

Given the high percentage of individuals engaging in these unsafe practices, the CDC recommends that public messaging should continue to “emphasize evidence-based, safe practices such as hand hygiene and recommended cleaning and disinfection of high-touch surfaces to prevent transmission of COVID-19 in household settings.” 

“That messaging should also emphasize avoidance of high-risk practices such as unsafe preparation of cleaning and disinfectant solutions, use of bleach on food products, application of household cleaning and disinfectant products to skin, and inhalation or ingestion of cleaners and disinfectants,” the CDC said in a written statement.

It’s also important to understand that there is currently no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 is a foodborne disease, Sanja Ilic, food safety state specialist with Ohio State University Extension, the outreach arm of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES), has said.

She said that COVID-19 transmits person-to-person through droplets that are produced when an infected individual, speaks, coughs, or sneezes. The virus is most often transferred to another individual when droplets directly reach their nose, mouth, or eyes, or through close contact such as a handshake.

The virus can also transmit when a person touches an object or surface with the virus on it and then touches their mouth or eyes before washing their hands, Ilic said.

However, fresh fruits and vegetables can sometimes harbor harmful bacteria, so you should rinse produce under running water before preparing or eating it, according to Barbara Kowalcyk, a food safety expert and an assistant professor at CFAES’ Department of Food Science and Technology.

“The only exception is prewashed produce and raw meat and poultry products,” said Kowalcyk, who is also director of the Center for Foodborne Illness Research and Prevention (CFI) at CFAES. “Washing those products will actually increase the risk of foodborne illness because it can spread pathogens around.”

Fruits and vegetables that have skin should also be rinsed under running water before eating, cutting, or cooking them, even if you don’t plan to eat the skin, she said. 

“That is because peeling or cutting unwashed produce can transfer dirt or other contaminates from the surface of the produce to the portion of the fruit or vegetable you plan to eat,” Kowalcyk said. “Firm produce such as melons, apples, and cucumbers should be scrubbed with a clean produce brush before peeling or cutting into them. 

“They should then be dried off with a clean paper towel or cloth to further reduce harmful bacteria that might be present on the skin. Importantly, produce should be washed with water only. Never use soap, a bleach solution, or other sanitizers to wash produce.”

Lastly, don’t forget to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water before and after food preparation and before eating.

Chow Line is a service of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or turner.490@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Barbara Kowalcyk, an assistant professor at CFAES’ Department of Food Science and Technology, and previously reviewed by Sanja Ilic, state specialist in food safety for OSU Extension.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: 

Tracy Turner

turner.490@osu.edu

614-688-1067

SOURCE(S): 

Barbara Kowalcyk
CFAES Food Science and Technology

Sanja Ilic
OSU Extension, Food Safety

Original Article: https://cfaes.osu.edu/news/articles/chow-line-don%E2%80%99t-bleach-your-food-protect-against-covid-19

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Food Safety spelled out in blocks - photo credit Getty

By: Tracy Turner

I read something about a salad recall due to cyclospora, but I’ve not really heard about cyclospora before – what is it?

Cyclospora cayetanensis is a microscopic parasite that can cause diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, and fatigue. When people eat food or drink water that’s contaminated with cyclospora, they can develop an intestinal illness called cyclosporiasis.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced June 19 that they are investigating a multistate outbreak of cyclospora potentially linked to ALDI Little Salad Bar Brand Garden Salad from ALDI grocery stores, Hy-Vee Brand Garden Salad from Hy-Vee grocery stores, and Signature Farms Brand Garden Salad from Jewel-Osco. 

As of now, the recalled salad has not been sold in Ohio, but in stores locations in Arkansas, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. However, the FDA said, “it is continuing this investigation and there may be additional retailers and products impacted by this outbreak.”

Thus far, at least 122 people across seven states have been sickened after consuming the salad mix, with at least 19 people hospitalized, FDA said.

According to the CDC, cyclospora is generally transmitted when food or water is contaminated by infected feces, noting that the parasite is, “unlikely to be transmitted directly from person to person because it needs several days to weeks after being passed in a bowel movement to become infectious for another person.”

“Some people may experience symptoms that last a few days to a month or longer,” said Sanja Ilic, the state food safety specialist for Ohio State University Extension. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).

Cyclosporiasis affects an estimated 15,000 people in the United States each year, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

Cyclospora infects the small intestine and usually causes watery diarrhea, with frequent, sometimes explosive, bowel movements. Other common symptoms include loss of appetite, weight loss, stomach cramps or pain, bloating, increased gas, nausea, and fatigue. 

People may also experience vomiting, body aches, headache, low-grade fever, and other flu-like symptoms, according to the CDC. Some people who are infected with the parasite don’t have any symptoms. If needed, treatment can include an antibiotic. 

Chow Line is a service of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line author Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or turner.490@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Sanja Ilic, state food safety specialist for OSU Extension.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: 

Tracy Turner

turner.490@osu.edu

614-688-1067

SOURCE(S): 

Sanja Ilic
OSU Extension, Food Safety

  1. 364 West Lane Ave.
    Suite B120
    Columbus, OH 43201
    Fax: 614-292-2270
  2. Research Services Building
    1680 Madison Ave.
    Wooster, OH 44691
    Fax: 330-202-3504

Original Link: https://cfaes.osu.edu/news/articles/chow-line-salad-recall-prompts-questions-parasite 

 

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Tiny white larvae in a strawberry caused by spotted wing drosophila. Photo courtesy of Hannah Burrack, North Carolina State University, Bugwood.org.

By: Tracy Turner

I just saw a viral video that shows little tiny worms coming out of a strawberry soaking in salt water. Is that real or a prank? Can I get sick from eating strawberries if they do have worms?

Many people in recent weeks have been surprised to learn that yes, sometimes fresh produce can contain small pest infestations that, while may sound gross to some, really aren’t harmful for consumers. 

In fact, there is a strong likelihood that you’ve already unknowingly consumed a tiny worm or insect or two during your lifetime. 

The Food and Drug Administration has guidelines for how many bugs or how much mold is allowed in each type of food. Using what the FDA calls food defects standards, the agency sets the maximum levels of natural or unavoidable defects that present no health hazards in foods for human use. 

This is because, “it is economically impractical to grow, harvest, or process raw products that are totally free of nonhazardous, naturally occurring, unavoidable defects,” the FDA says.

For example, berries are allowed to have an average of four or more larvae per 500 grams, the standards say. And 14 ounces of tomato juice is allowed to have up to four larvae and 20 or more fruit fly eggs, while even a chocolate candy bar is allowed to have 60 or more insect fragments per 100 grams when six 100-gram subsamples are examined, the FDA guidelines say.

Even though that may sound gross for some, the tiny white larvae that can sometimes be found inside strawberries are harmless to consumers. They are actually the larvae of a fly, commonly known as the spotted-wing drosophila, an invasive species of pest from East Asia that infests berry crops and was first seen in the United States in 2008, said Celeste Welty, an Ohio State University Extension entomologist and associate professor of entomology. 

OSU Extension is the outreach arm of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences. 

The pest, which has been found in Ohio since 2011, can be a problem for berry growers because it can cause significant crop damage. But, if spotted early, it can be managed to avoid losses, Welty said.

Spotted-wing drosophila targets fruit crops, including raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, grapes, peaches, and plums, and sometimes cherries, strawberries, pears, apples, and cherry tomatoes. The pest causes damage through larval feeding on ripening fruit. Damage starts as a tiny scar on the skin of the fruit, with the skin collapsing in two or three days and mold developing.

“The consensus is that they almost never infest traditional June-bearing strawberries, but they often attack ever-bearing strawberries later in the summer, both in field plantings and in high tunnels,” she said.

Thanks to training offered by OSU Extension on spotted-wing drosophila, more fruit growers now know how to manage the fly to lessen the potential for it to infest fruit crops, Welty said. That often includes spraying a weekly insecticide on the crops through the end of harvest and monitoring when the insect comes onto their farm and preventing females laying eggs in the fruit, or enclosing the crop under fine-mesh netting.

Consumers can determine if the fly larvae are in a piece of fruit by putting the fruit in a plastic zippered storage bag or a one-quart container filled with warm, salty water and waiting 15 minutes, Welty said. 

“The bags or container with infested fruit will show little larvae floating to the top of the salt water,” she said, noting that if any appear, they are harmless.

“For those who may be squeamish about larvae, locally grown berries harvested in June are less likely to have larvae,” Welty said. “This is because the spotted-wing drosophila typically does not become active until July.”

Chow Line is a service of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line author Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or turner.490@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Celeste Welty, an OSU Extension entomologist and associate professor of entomology.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: 

Tracy Turner

turner.490@osu.edu

614-688-1067

SOURCE(S): 

Celeste Welty
614-292-2803
welty.1@osu.edu

  1. 364 West Lane Ave.
    Suite B120
    Columbus, OH 43201
    Fax: 614-292-2270
  2. Research Services Building
    1680 Madison Ave.
    Wooster, OH 44691
    Fax: 330-202-3504

 

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meat packaging, photo credit: Getty Images

By: Tracy Turner

Is it safe to eat food or meat if it has been handled by someone who has COVID-19? 

According to food safety and meat science experts, the risk of acquiring COVID-19 through the handling of food or meat is extremely low. In fact, there is no evidence at this time that COVID-19 can be transmitted through consumption of contaminated foods, said Lyda G. Garcia, an assistant professor of meat science with The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).  

COVID-19 transmits person-to-person through droplets that are produced when an infected individual coughs or sneezes. The virus is most often transferred to another individual when droplets directly reach their nose, mouth, or eyes, or through close contact such as a handshake. Traditional food safety measures, especially proper hand-washing and cooking meat to the correct internal temperature, should always be followed. 

Because many consumers have similar questions as yours regarding meat safety—and meat supply—amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Garcia, who is also an Ohio State University Extension meat specialist weighs in here. OSU Extension, CFAES’ outreach arm, includes a focus on fresh meat processing, so Garcia, who is also working directly with livestock producers and meat processors addressing needs specific to each segment throughout the COVID-19 pandemic through the CFAES Lean on Your Land Grant Food Supply Chain Task Force, answers some important meat-related questions below.

Can I get sick by handling food or meat packages if the COVID-19 virus has contaminated the surfaces? 

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there is no evidence that COVID-19 can be contracted through food or meat packages. In addition, according to the FDA, you do not need to wash food containers to prevent COVID-19 infection. You shouldn’t wash meat in the sink, nor should you spray or dip food products into chemicals commonly used for household cleaning. Rather, you should always wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content after handling packages or leaving a retail establishment. Be sure to disinfect food preparation areas according to chemical manufacturer’s recommendations. 

Will meat plant closures due to workers contracting COVID-19 cause meat shortages? 

The meat industry is devoted to maintaining the supply chain. Although some plants have temporarily closed and others have slowed production, the meat industry began preparing for interruptions in the supply chain once COVID-19 began to spread globally. Currently, the industry does not foresee any interruptions in the supply chain. Those meat processing plants that have closed are deep cleaning, beyond traditional cleaning and sanitizing measures, as well as working with state and local health departments to reopen as soon as it is safe. Consumers should not panic-buy or stockpile meats. Rather, they should maintain traditional buying patterns. 

What is the meat industry doing to maintain the supply chain? 

While temporary closures of restaurants and other food service establishments have caused overall total meat sales to decline, restaurant and food service meats are being transferred to meet the needs of retail grocery stores. Additionally, the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) is working with the meat industry to help ensure that the supply chain remains intact and safe. Consumers can help the meat industry maintain consistent supplies by avoiding panic-buying or stockpiling. 

What are meat plants doing to help their workers remain healthy during the pandemic?

Social distancing has become the new buzz phrase. Part of the reason some meat plants are reducing production is to institute and enforce social distancing. Most plants are staggering shifts, breaks, and lunchtimes, along with installing tents to allow workers to social distance. They’re also taking workers’ temperatures and completing overall worker health assessments at the beginning of each shift, and workers are required to wear masks, gloves, and eye protection. Plastic dividers are also being installed when social distancing is not possible. Workers that do become ill will still receive pay while they recover.

What is the USDA-FSIS doing to maintain a safe meat supply? 

Mandatory meat inspection is the law. The USDA-FSIS is working with the meat industry to ensure that meat inspectors are present at all inspected processing facilities. If an inspector becomes ill, a replacement or relief inspector is sent to fulfil the duties. In addition, the USDA-FSIS is working with state and local health departments to reopen closed plants to make sure all workers are safe. 

“The meats industry, the USDA, and farmers are trying to maintain the supply chain,” Garcia said. “Please understand everyone is trying to make sure safe, healthy food is available to consumers.” 

“Meat plants that have closed are testing employees for COVID-19, performing deep cleanings in the plants, instituting safety measures including Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), promoting social distancing, as well as working with state and local health departments to reopen as soon as possible. Consumers can help by avoiding panic-buying and stockpiling. By working together, we can make sure there is plenty for everyone.”

Chow Line is a service of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or turner.490@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Lyda G. Garcia, a CFAES assistant professor of meat science and an OSU Extension meat specialist.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: 

Tracy Turner

turner.490@osu.edu

614-688-1067

SOURCE(S): 

Lyda Garcia
garcia.625@osu.edu

  1. 364 West Lane Ave.
    Suite B120
    Columbus, OH 43201
    Fax: 614-292-2270
  2. Research Services Building
    1680 Madison Ave.
    Wooster, OH 44691
    Fax: 330-202-3504

 

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Man wearing face mask, photo credit: Getty Images

By: Tracy Turner

Original link: https://cfaes.osu.edu/news/articles/chow-line-face-masks-and-eating

I now wear a mask every time I leave my house, and I plan to do so as long as we are faced with the COVID-19 pandemic. But I haven’t figured out how to eat or drink with a mask on. Do I take it off or pull it up between bites? Any tips on what to do?

As states ease their stay-at-home orders and people return to venturing out of the house, your question of how to eat or drink while wearing a face mask is one that is likely to come up frequently.

According to published reports, some restaurants in Hong Kong, for example, have begun providing patrons with a clean bag to store their masks in while they eat at the restaurant. With that in mind, if you do plan to eat when out in public, you should carefully take your mask off completely without touching the outside of the mask, said Sanja Ilic, food safety state specialist with Ohio State University Extension, the outreach arm of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences. 

“The best practice is not to reuse the mask before it be can be properly cleaned,” she said. “One option would be to have a second, cleaned mask that you can put on after eating. Also, before eating, you need to wash or sanitize your hands after removing your mask.” 

It’s also important to know how to take off your mask safely, Ilic said, because proper use of face masks might help restrict the spread of the virus from an infected person or prevent a healthy person from becoming infected. Improper use could cause the opposite, she said.

“Masks and cloth face coverings should be handled assuming they are contaminated with the virus causing COVID-19,” Ilic said. “As such, face coverings should be removed without touching the outside of it or your eyes, nose, or mouth. The mask or face covering should be immediately placed with dirty laundry or stored in a plastic bag until they can be properly cleaned.” 

Also, people should be careful not to touch their eyes, nose, or mouth when removing their face covering, and they should wash their hands immediately after removing their mask.

Ilic said face coverings can be an effective means of slowing the spread of the infectious agent for many respiratory illnesses and might help slow the spread of COVID-19.

“But, wearing a face covering does NOT provide complete protection and does not replace other ways of slowing virus spread,” she said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, here are some ways to slow the spread: practicing good social distancing by staying at home; avoiding contact with others, and staying at least 6 feet away from others when out in public; washing your hands with soap for 20 seconds and using hand sanitizer often; and avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

When choosing and wearing a face mask, the CDC says the mask should:

  • fit snugly but comfortably against the side of your face.
  • be secured with ties or ear loops.
  • include multiple layers of fabric.
  • allow for breathing without restriction.
  • be able to be laundered and machine-dried without damaging or changing its shape.
  • cover your mouth and nose with no gaps between your face and the mask.

Additionally, the CDC says to:

  • wash or sanitize your hands before putting on a mask, every time the covering is touched, and immediately after removing the mask.
  • put the mask on, grasp the mask and pinch it at the ear loops or grasp the upper ties. For ear-loop-style masks, secure the ear loops behind the ears. For tie-back-style masks, secure the upper ties behind your head first, then secure the lower ties behind your head. Always put the same side of a reused mask against the face.
  • remove the mask slowly and carefully without touching the outside of it or the eyes, nose, or mouth. Remove ear-loop masks by holding the ear loops. Remove tie-back masks by untying the lower ties first and the upper ties last; ensure that the ties don’t fall into the clean, interior side of the mask. If the mask will be reused, place it in a bag until it can be laundered.
  • wash the cloth mask after each use with regular detergent and warm/hot water, then dry it thoroughly in the dryer.

It’s also important that you don’t wear a mask that hasn’t been cleaned thoroughly, or one that is soiled, torn, saturated, or damaged, Ilic said.

“Remember, you can still get infected by touching your eyes, nose, or mouth, so don’t let the mask provide you with a false sense of security,” she said.

Chow Line is a service of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or turner.490@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Sanja Ilic, state specialist in food safety for OSU Extension.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: 

Tracy Turner

turner.490@osu.edu

614-688-1067

SOURCE(S): 

Sanja Ilic
614-292-4076
ilic.2@osu.edu

  1. 364 West Lane Ave.
    Suite B120
    Columbus, OH 43201
    Fax: 614-292-2270
  2. Research Services Building
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    Wooster, OH 44691
    Fax: 330-202-3504

 

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Family dinner (photo credit: National Cancer Society)

By: Dr. Kara Morgan

Within the coronavirus pandemic, we are living through extraordinary times. Even as a decision analyst who is accustomed to bringing tools and experience to the challenge of making decisions under uncertainty, I am finding it challenging to absorb and react to all of the emerging information that we are continuously receiving. It is overwhelming.

In the food safety community, the first questions were about the ability for coronavirus to be transmitted through food. Current research indicates that the likelihood of transmission through food is very low. However, we need to be aware how quickly science has been changing during this pandemic and be prepared to respond accordingly. We cannot let down our guard.

Other concerns focus on the impacts of food safety, not from the coronavirus, but from traditional foodborne pathogens. The food safety system has some automated and technical components but, at its core, it is a human system and vulnerable to the same types of impacts that every human system can be impacted by. Stressed employees, new and less trained employees, and employees working in unusual environments (increase in curbside deliveries, wearing masks while waiting tables), restaurants selling bulk produce and raw protein, all of these unusual situations can impact the risk management hurdles that are put in place to prevent and reduce foodborne illness. Also, things like shifts in types of food being eaten (more eating at home, more take-out) and shortages in grocery stores can lead to changes in consumption patterns which can lead to changes in exposure to foodborne illness  as well.

The final assault on the food safety system from coronavirus is the problem of government resources. The public health resources that are assigned at CDC and in local and state health agencies to collect and analyze data on foodborne illness have been redirected to support work on containing and managing the COVID19 outbreak. This is understandable but poses an increasingly likelihood over the next weeks and months that a large foodborne outbreak will not be identified by the systems that would usually detect it. Also, doctors are not ordering the lab tests that feed data into the surveillance system that identifies matches and helps link single illnesses to other illnesses that lead to the recognition of an outbreak. Finally, the resources at FDA that are dedicated to oversight of the food system through domestic and foreign inspections of food manufacturing facilities have been put on hold in order to protect FDA inspectors from possible exposure to coronavirus. In addition, the food manufacturing inspections that are conducted by state inspectors under contract to FDA were also paused. The USDA inspections have not been stopped (if they had, meat and poultry production would have to stop, by law), but many USDA inspectors have become ill from coronavirus and at least four have died, so there are clearly stresses in that environment as well.

Some have hypothesized that the cleaning and sanitizing practices that have been put in place to reduce the spread of coronavirus could have positive impacts on food safety. It is true that policies like proper handwashing and employees staying away from work when they are sick are key risk management tools for reducing foodborne illnesses caused by microbial pathogens. Also, the sanitation practices put into place to reduce the spread of COVID19 will similarly kill foodborne pathogens on food contact surfaces that may have otherwise caused cross-contamination and lead to foodborne illness. But the truth is, we will never know. We will never know whether these practices reduced foodborne illnesses because the data we have during the pandemic will be of lower quality than previous time frames, that is, it will have more missing data due to lack of reporting from state labs of patient samples and the lack of resources to monitor and trace foodborne outbreaks. Most likely, the estimates of foodborne illness during this time frame will be lower, but we will not know if that was due to the change in practices or due to the lack of resources to identify and investigate illnesses. It is a fragile system we have built to monitor foodborne illness, and unfortunately, like so many other things, the COVID19 pandemic has shattered it. Perhaps the analysts who estimate foodborne burden can develop a method of accounting for these changes, but those will simply introduce more uncertainty. There is one hope - if we can keep these more intense cleaning and illness protocols in place after the COVID-19 threat passes and the public health system is able to turn its attention back to food safety, only then will we will be able to assess the true impact on the system. And if, as many say, we are moving into an era with a constant threat of global pandemics, maybe that is not as unlikely as it now seems.


Dr. Kara MorganDr. Kara Morgan

Research Scientist

 

 

 

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cafeteria

By: Allison Howell

I was home with my family for Spring Break when Ohio State first announced a transition to online learning for the rest of Spring Semester. As a graduating senior, I didn’t know how to feel. I was sad that I wouldn’t get to see my classmates or teachers anymore. I was confused as to how my lab courses would be transitioned into an online format. But as a microbiology major, I understood the threat that COVID-19 posed and why these decisions had been made. Soon, more announcements were made. Spring Break would be extended an extra week for students to move out of university housing, gyms and dining facilities would be shut down, students on study abroad would have to return home, and the Class of 2020’s graduation ceremony would be cancelled. All of these cancellations and postponements put a damper on the last few weeks of my undergraduate experience, but I adapted to the situation and finished my coursework to earn my undergraduate degree.

With classes being moved online, I have had more free time to cook meals and try out new recipes. At home, leftovers were not as common and usually only lasted a day or two in the fridge before my dad or one of my sisters finished them up. But now, cooking for one, I often find myself filling two or three containers with leftovers every time I cook. I try to keep them close to the front of the fridge, so I remember to eat them before they go bad, but I also live and share a refrigerator with five roommates. Leftovers get moved around to make room for more leftovers or a recent grocery haul, and often I find myself faced with a dilemma: How long ago did I make this chicken? Was this my leftover pasta from Monday or my roommate’s leftover pasta from last Monday?

In these situations, I find myself reminded of food safety campaigns such as 4 Day Throwaway and USDA’s Be Food Safe: Clean. Separate. Cook. Chill.

4 Day Throw AwayClean, Separate, Cook, Chill

Growing up with two parents in the food industry, I learned how to make safe food choices, but many other college students didn’t spend their free time as a kid helping stock shelves at a grocery store or watching a parent experiment with new recipes. After two years of living off campus and being without a meal plan, my roommates still often ask me things like “If I am going to cook this chicken on Friday will it stay good in the fridge until then or should I freeze it?” and “How do I tell if these burgers are done?”

This pandemic has displaced many college students, some who are able to return to their family homes and some who are not. With university dining services closed, these students are thrust headfirst into shopping for and preparing their own meals. Data suggests most outbreaks of foodborne illness are tied to restaurants or eating out, but this trend should be appreciated with caution. Our current food safety surveillance systems are better at detecting incidences of foodborne illness for restaurants than homecooked food. Following basic food safety guidelines can always help reduce your risk of foodborne illness whether you are cooking for a crowd or yourself. In normal times or during a global pandemic.

I have seen lots of articles and stories connecting COVID-19 to food safety and providing answers to questions such as “Can COVID-19 be spread through food?”, “Is takeout or delivery safer?” and “How should I change the way I grocery shop?” No data suggests that COVID-19 is able to be transmitted through food, but still food safety experts and public health officials have been working hard to make sure the public is informed and empowered to make safe food choices during this pandemic. The FDA has an abundance of resources on their Food Safety and the Coronavirus Disease 2019 page, and many universities have been hosting webinars and publishing communications to keep the public informed. This graphic from North Carolina State University Extension is just one example of the many resources they have been developing. Check out the rest here.

COVID-19 and Food Safety FAQ

We have been adjusting a lot of our daily decisions and behaviors to the current state of the pandemic. Food safety behaviors are not excluded from this change. The pandemic has drawn attention to how we contribute to the spread of germs and the actions we are able to take to help limit this spread. These actions, such as more frequent handwashing and staying home as much as possible when sick help to reduce the spread of both COVID-19 and foodborne pathogens. While we hope many things may go back to “normal” after the pandemic, perhaps not all of these adjustments should be reversed. Frequent handwashing and more attention to personal hygiene, especially in the kitchen, are hopefully here to stay!


Allison Howell

 

Allison Howell

Graduate Research Assistant at the Master’s level

howell.497@buckeyemail.osu.edu

 

 

 

 

 

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chain by Franck V. unsplash.com

By: Zain Bali

Tracking information is important to food safety regulators and businesses because it helps identify when and where products have been. Blockchain technology is a new tool that can track products more efficiently and effectively than bar or QR codes. The potential benefits of blockchain technology for record keeping in food supply chains have been a clear and consistent message for years (Fontanazza, 2019; How Blockchain, 2019; Plaven, 2020). Using blockchain would allow for immediate trace-back when a contaminated product is found. And it can identify the source of the food in hours instead of the weeks it now takes. So, what is blockchain? What are its uses across the food industry? What is a food safety perspective and how could blockchain assist in product tracking and by extension outbreak investigations?

To explain blockchain, I will start with Bitcoin, which was believed to be the future of money just a few years ago. In 2017, this electronic currency, once valued in pennies, peaked at $17,000 a coin (NDTV Profit Team. 2018). The usefulness of cryptocurrency was obvious to many - no bank or government could charge transaction fees and it is impossible to counterfeit. This transparency created high levels of trust among those that used it. The blockchain technology that undergirded Bitcoin paired cryptography and internet networks to create an information system that is secure, decentralized, and displays transactions in real time.

To understand how blockchain works, it might help to imagine how information is shared in transportation systems. For example, if you are a tourist in Chicago, you can use one machine to buy a $20 three-day pass. This pass can be used on all three systems in Chicago: Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), Metra (Chicago’s commuter railroad), and Pace (suburban bus system). The machine prints out a blue card with big white letters “Ventra'' which is a fare system that bridges the gap among the information and finance systems of CTA, Pace, and Metra. Ventra uses RFID technology embedded in its pass to enable use of all three of these services. Ventra is also the middleman that facilitates payment from your banking institution to the transportation services. At time of purchase, Ventra processes the payment by sending a request to your bank. The bank’s systems verify this transaction, create an internal record of purchase, and reimburse Ventra which splits the funds between three systems. When all is said and done, five different electronic systems have participated in translating or processing information for your use of transportation. Each system has its own set of security controls, and information processes that incur administrative cost and risk.

Blockchain cuts out the middleman. In blockchain, the original request for a ticket, rather than going to a middleman like Ventra, is processed through a series of “nodes” connecting the three systems’ information systems together that verify the transaction. The computers and servers among the three transportation systems create a shared ledger with each information system using a “key” generated by known algorithms dedicated for this network. When a new user is processed and status verified, the system creates a “block” in a secure chain that stores data in a chronological and linear fashion visible to every participant (Figure 1). 

Image - How Blockchain works

Figure 1: This graphic shows how a blockchain is created in the network.

Source: Blockchain Infographics: The Most Comprehensive Collection. (2019, November 08). Retrieved May 16, 2020, from https://blockgeeks.com/blockchain-infographics/

Blockchain’s potential application in food safety has attracted attention from government agencies, food retailers, and consumer groups. In 2018, FDA introduced it’s “New Era of Smarter Food Safety'' which celebrated blockchain’s potential for improving product tracking during an outbreak. Currently, when an outbreak occurs, investigators interview individuals who have been sickened to identify suspect foods. Investigators then request records from businesses who produce, handle, or process the suspected product. They use these information sources to determine the root cause of the outbreak. This is a very difficult task because the food supply system is vast and mostly working in silos rather than with systems that easily share data. 

For example, in April 2018, there was an outbreak of E. Coli 0157:H7 that caused 210 illnesses, 96 hospitalizations and 5 deaths. Three and a half weeks after the first confirmed illness, investigators finally identified romaine lettuce from a single farm in the Yuma growing region as the source of the outbreak. In the intervening time, the government could only recommend consumers avoid romaine lettuce and businesses recalled millions of heads of lettuce resulting in a reduced consumer trust and economic loss. Part of the reason these investigations take so long is because of the time it takes a business to compile records of their product. Even in the best cases, sometimes a company could not confirm a product's location because it used different record keeping technologies/methods from its business partners. Depending on maturation of their traceability systems, it can take days to weeks. 

Following the outbreak, in an open letter to its leafy green suppliers, Walmart highlighted the need for enhanced food traceability to reduce investigation times, and conduct more thorough “root cause analysis to inform future prevention efforts, and the implication and associated-losses of unaffected products that are inaccurately linked to an outbreak can be avoided” (Walmart Traceability, 2018). In December 2018, Walmart identified 25 products for blockchain use and announced that all suppliers of leafy greens will be required to use the technology by 2019 under their new Traceability Initiative for Leafy Greens (Smith, M. 2018). This decision was motivated by high profile outbreaks like the one above and Walmart’s recent success in pilot studies tracking pork and mango. Walmart chose to collaborate with IBM using its product Hyperledger Fabric. Walmart conducted the experiment for mangos by working with GS1 to develop new product labels while IBM created programs that could read those labels and transfer the information into the blockchain network. Walmart worked with its mango suppliers by providing new labels and support to integrate them into existing operations. After, suppliers were able to upload their data through a secure web portal that connected their business to the rest of the blockchain. Walmart then tested the system to see how long it would take them to trace a given mango to its source – it reduced the time from a week to 2.2 seconds! Imagine if that were the case for the Yuma romaine lettuce outbreak! Of course, there are two caveats: 1) Walmart is an outlier as this technology is relatively new, and 2) the pilot studies were not studying outbreak investigations rather the efficiency of product tracking.

The hype around blockchain is exciting but perhaps too enthusiastic.  A look from a food safety perspective reveals some practical challenges. Most think of food inspectors when they think of food safety or, if you have worked in food service, then you may think of the ubiquitous hand washing sign. Food safety is a joint effort among everyone who comes in contact with the food you enjoy. There is a complex system of food laws dictating how products are grown, processed, and manufactured to ensure they are safe and exactly what you paid for. Then, there are the management systems businesses use to test, label, market, and track products. So, although blockchain may be a huge advantage for problems ,like how to identify which suppliers may have been exposed to contamination, it is only one piece in the large system that makes food safe. 

Blockchain also comes at high cost to implement and maintain. When compared to other record keeping options, many companies use paper or electronic management systems analogous to Ventra from the earlier example. Even RFID, a technology that has been on the market for 40 years, was recently incorporated in smart packing technology and had an average price of $.10 a tag per product (Aiello et al., 2015). This is a very high cost for an industry that traditionally has very small profit margins. Another challenge is the investment in human resources or equipment to ensure compliance with food safety standards. If a business is large enough, they can likely hire food safety officers to monitor employee behavior, equipment cleanliness, and new policy developments and generate reports. Additional options for those with less resources include hiring certified third-party consultants to conduct the same activities. Now imagine a company already uses a paper record keeping system and wants to transition to a new electronic system. The company has to make investments to secure the software service used for electronic record keeping and train new staff to monitor the operation and maintenance of that system. Or perhaps the company already uses an electronic data system but needs to upgrade equipment or invest into employee training. This is the reality of food safety – there are many other aspects like cost and training that influence the adoption of this technology. 

Blockchain record keeping is one tool in food safety that has enormous potential for improving traceability considering recent advancements in technology but still... blockchain is no magic bullet.

References:

Aiello, G., Enea, M., & Muriana, C. (2015). The expected value of the traceability information. European Journal of Operational Research, 244(1), 176-186. doi:10.1016/j.ejor.2015.01.028

Blockchain Infographics: The Most Comprehensive Collection. (2019, November 08). Retrieved May 16, 2020, from https://blockgeeks.com/blockchain-infographics/

Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. (n.d.). Outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 Infections Linked to Chopped Romaine. Retrieved May 14, 2020, from https://www.fda.gov/food/outbreaks-foodborne-illness/fda-investigated-mu...

Fontanazza, M. (2019, March 20). Promise of Blockchain Could Help Seafood Traceability, Unique Challenges Remain. Retrieved May 19, 2020, from https://foodsafetytech.com/news_article/promise-of-blockchain-could-help...

How Blockchain Is Changing the Supply Chain Conversation. (2019). Retrieved May 19, 2020, from https://www.ift.org/news-and-publications/food-technology-magazine/issue...

NDTV Profit Team. (2018, January 07). Bitcoin Jumps To $17,000 As Cryptocurrency Finds A New 'Pal' In Peter Thiel. Retrieved May 13, 2020, from https://www.ndtv.com/business/bitcoin-rises-again-as-cryptocurrency-gets-a-new-pal-in-peter-thiel-1796797

Plaven, G., & Capital Press. (2020, January 18). Blockchain technology helps farmers track crops. Retrieved May 13, 2020, from https://www.capitalpress.com/ag_sectors/research/blockchain-technology-helps-farmers-track-crops/article_02d9073e-2c12-11ea-859b-f31f99156d3b.html

Smith, M. (2018). In Wake of Romaine E. coli Scare, Walmart Deploys Blockchain to Track Leafy Greens. Retrieved May 13, 2020, from https://corporate.walmart.com/newsroom/2018/09/24/in-wake-of-romaine-e-coli-scare-walmart-deploys-blockchain-to-track-leafy-greens

Walmart, Food Traceability Initiative. (2018, September 24). Food Traceability Initiative Fresh Leafy Greens [Press release]. Retrieved May 13, 2020, from https://corporate.walmart.com/media-library/document/blockchain-supplier...


Zain BaliZain Bali

bali.6@osu.edu

Undergraduate Student Researcher

Department of Food Science & Technology

 

 

 

 

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