On Wednesday, May 11th, CFI hosted the Inaugural OSU Food Safety Collaborative meeting. The goal of this meeting was to bring together the OSU food safety community to share ideas and build partnerships. To kick off our meeting, David J. Staley, who is an Associate Professor with the OSU Department of History, gave a wonderful talk titled "The Need for Interdisciplinary Thinking". The talk emphasized the importance of inter-departmental collaboration to solve food safety challenges and was the perfect talk to set the tone for what the OSU Food Safety Collaborative is hoping to accomplish.
The Need for Interdisciplinary Thinking
By: David J. Staley
I’m not an ecologist, but I understand that in ecology there is the concept of an “ecotone”: a region of transition between two biological habitats/ecologies. It turns out that this point of intersection between ecologies often produces “edge effects,” and is particularly noted as an attractive site for a rich, complex diversity of life.
Thinkers such as diverse as Stewart Brand and Yo-Yo Ma have borrowed this concept to describe how creativity and innovation works. And I wish to borrow the analogy as well: we are often admonished to “break down silos” with little or no guidance about what we are supposed to do after we have broken the silos.
I would like to propose the creation of an “epistemological ecotone”—a point of intersection between disciplines—that induces edge effects: a rich, complex diversity of ideas.
To continue the analogy: disciplines are habitats in this analogy. Richard Ogle thinks of disciplines as “idea spaces” “Idea spaces can take many different forms,” he writes.
Established scientific disciplines and paradigms, for example, represent idea-spaces that embed collective intelligence about the most effective way to carry out research, typically providing an overarching framework of established theory, principles, practices, heuristics, methodological assumptions, lab techniques, and so forth.
A discipline—an idea-space—is an intellectual habitat. The point of intersection between these intellectual habitats becomes the site and generator of edge effects.
This ecological analogy gives us a new way to think about interdisciplinarity/about collaboratives (like the Food Safety Collaborative).
Frans Johansson describes this condition as “The Intersection”
The key difference between a field (a discipline) and an intersection of fields lies in how concepts within them are combined. If you operate within a field (within a discipline) you primarily are able to combine concepts within that particular field, generating ideas that evolve along a particular direction—what (he) calls directional ideas. When you step into the Intersection (what I’ve been calling the “epistemological ecotone”) you can combine concepts between multiple fields, generating ideas that leap in new directions—what (he) calls intersectional ideas.
The Intersection is a liminal space—a threshold—an environment that is in-between disciplines; and it can be difficult and disorienting and unsettling to reside here because:
1) it is difficult to manage, in part because outcomes are difficult to foresee or to plan for or to control. Surprise and fortuity, serendipity and epiphany are edge effects of life in the epistemological ecotone.
2) this liminal environment often has no recognizable academic infrastructure: journals, conferences, professional societies, degree programs, TIUs. Faculty are often rewarded for their contributions to disciplines, not for the edge effects they might create when in The Intersection. Perhaps this is why universities are often hesitant to create and maintain (and fund) these liminal, in-between spaces.
The threshold space I am describing is a kind of “Third Place.” In urban design, a third place is a convivial space that is neither home (First Place) nor work (Second Space). What you are building here with your Collaborative is an “epistemological third place,” neither one discipline or another, but the liminal edge between them.
In design, we often talk about “wicked problems.” These are challenges of such size, complexity and uncertainty that they appear seemingly unsolvable. The maintenance of food safety certainly qualifies as a wicked problem, one best addressed by breaking down silos between stakeholders and collaborating together…at the edge.
Associate Professor with the OSU Department of History
Even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, direct-to-consumer and third-party delivery methods were on the rise. The food delivery industry has tripled since 2017 with 8% growth just in the last few years (Ahuja et al., 2022). With this rapid growth in industry, regulatory agencies and establishments have had less time to adapt to the increasing food-safety concerns.
There are three resources that I have found to be useful when looking for advice. The first is the Partnership for Food Safety Education, an organization that promotes and develops education programs to reduce the risk of foodborne illness among consumers (Partnership for Food Safety Education, 2021). The second source of information is from the Conference of Food Protection which is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing food safety guidance that is incorporated into food safety laws and regulations throughout the United States (Conference for Food Protection, n.d.). The third source of information comes from StateFoodSafety, an online food safety training company, where their efforts are designed to educate the public and ensure the health of communities nationwide (StateFoodSafety, n.d.).
Here are a few tips you can use to ensure a food delivery order remains safe regardless of your role:
- Consumers are individuals who seek out food orders for their own consumption:
- Partnership for Food Safety Education encourages consumers to:
- Ask the delivery company or restaurant questions about their delivery standards and what you should do if your order has been compromised.
- Ensure you or someone you know will be able to accept the delivery of your order so that it can be stored in a safe place if the food is not consumed immediately.
- Inspect the packaging once you have your order to ensure there is no damage and promptly cook, serve or save your food depending on your plans.
- Partnership for Food Safety Education encourages consumers to:
Food Businesses are establishments that prepare, cook, and serve food to their customers.
The Conference for Food Protection encourages food businesses to:
Protect your food by providing adequate packaging to ensure four things:
1. There is no cross-contamination between perishable foods,
2. Unpackaged food items do not have contact with major allergens,
3. Food is protected from time-temperature abuse during transit, and
4. Food is not damaged during transit.
Provide your employees with proper food handling techniques through some sort of training program.
Training should be reassessed on a regular basis.
- Delivery Drivers are individuals who transport food items from a food business to a consumer whether through a third-party company or directly through a food business.
- StateFoodSafety encourages delivery drivers to:
- Practice good personal hygiene.
- Avoid cross-contamination of delivery orders by keeping foods separate and in safe places.
- Identify ways to keep the food order at the proper temperature to ensure quality and safety.
- StateFoodSafety encourages delivery drivers to:
Everyone has a responsibility when it comes to the safety of food delivery orders, no matter what role an individual has in the food chain. Enjoy safe and delicious food using these tips!
Ahuja, K., Chandra, V., Lord, V., & Peens, C. (2022, February 18). Ordering in: The rapid evolution of Food Delivery. McKinsey & Company. Retrieved February 21, 2022, from https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/technology-media-and-telecommunications/our-insights/ordering-in-the-rapid-evolution-of-food-delivery
Clark, C. (n.d.). How to Handle Food Delivery and To-Go Orders Safely. Statefoodsafety.com . Retrieved February 21, 2022, from https://www.statefoodsafety.com/Resources/Resources/how-to-handle-food-delivery-and-to-go-orders-safely
Conference for Food Protection. (n.d.). Retrieved February 21, 2022, from http://www.foodprotect.org/
Dimensions. (2021, April 27). Close up of woman packing food for delivery stock photo. iStock. Retrieved February 21, 2022, from https://www.istockphoto.com/photo/close-up-of-woman-packing-food-for-delivery-gm1314632869-402807855
Guidance document for direct-to-consumer and third-Party Delivery Service Food delivery: Conference-developed guides and documents. Conference for Food Protection. (n.d.). Retrieved February 21, 2022, from http://www.foodprotect.org/guides-documents/guidance-document-for-direct-to-consumer-and-third-party-delivery-service-food-delivery/
Partnership & history. Partnership for Food Safety Education. (2021, September 20). Retrieved February 21, 2022, from https://www.fightbac.org/about-us/partnership-history/
PeopleImages. (2020, November 26). We've got you covered during lockdown stock photo. iStock. Retrieved February 21, 2022, from https://www.istockphoto.com/photo/weve-got-you-covered-during-lockdown-gm1287632111-383789708
Prep yourself. Partnership for Food Safety Education. (2022, February 16). Retrieved February 21, 2022, from https://www.fightbac.org/prep-yourself/
Rez-Art. (2020). African american couple sitting at table looking at food delivery stock photo. iStock. Retrieved February 21, 2022, from https://www.istockphoto.com/photo/african-american-couple-sitting-at-table-looking-at-food-delivery-gm1279915118-378372743
StateFoodSafety. (n.d.). About us: Company. About Us | Company | StateFoodSafety.com. Retrieved February 21, 2022, from https://www.statefoodsafety.com/About
By: Chloe McGovern
A new year brings a fresh start to a lot of aspects of our lives; it is a great time to reset and rejuvenate. A fresh start can be symbolic with a good cleaning, so why not start with your refrigerator? Your refrigerator is an essential part of keeping your food safe, and it does not get cleaned often enough as a thank you for all the work it does. Left unclean, your fridge could become the perfect incubator for pathogens to survive and contaminate other food. So now is the perfect time to clean it in preparation for another year of feeding your loved ones.
So... How do you clean it?
The first step is to take all your food out of the fridge and place it in an ice chest. This is a fantastic opportunity to throw out expired food or month-old leftovers that have been pushed to the back. Once you take the food out of the refrigerator it is recommended that it stays out of the refrigerator for at most 2 hours. Cleaning your fridge should not take 2 hours but set a timer so you do not forget about the food!
The second step is to remove all the detachable parts like shelves or drawers. Wash these removable parts with hot, soapy water and a sponge. Be careful with cold glass and hot water. As the water warms up, warm up the glass so the temperature difference does not break the glass. Next, you are going to dry these parts with a clean towel.
The third step is to wipe the inside of the empty refrigerator with hot, soapy water. Follow this with clean water and a towel to wipe the soap off and dry the inside. The inside includes the door and any non-removable parts.
For an additional step, you can mix 1 tablespoon of liquid bleach and a gallon of water to create a sanitizing solution. With a clean sponge, wipe down just the removable parts. Let these parts dry outside of the fridge. Bleach solution should not be applied directly to the inside of the fridge.
The last step in your refrigerator cleaning is putting the shelves and drawers back into your nice and clean refrigerator and placing your food back in its home!
Weekly or monthly wipe downs with disinfecting wipes, or right after a spill, prevents these deep cleanings and the upkeeping of your appliances from being a drag. Your refrigerator deserves a deep cleaning every 3-4 months, so show your most important appliance the love it deserves.
The recommendations made in this blog are from the U.S. Center for Disease Control. More information from them can be found here:
Graduate Research Assistant at the Master’s Level
By: Ariel Garsow
It is common in the New Year to make a resolution to eat healthier. This may include incorporating foods into your diet that you have not cooked with or eaten before. Maybe you want to meal prep the night before for the next day.
Improper handling of food can lead to an increased risk of foodborne illness. There are four steps you can take to reduce your risk of getting sick from the healthy food you are preparing this New Year: clean, separate, cook, and chill.
Clean: wash your hands and the counter
Hand washing may seem monotonous, but it is important. Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before you start cooking, after handling potentially contaminated food as well as before eating. Clean your countertop after use as well.
Separate: keep raw meat, eggs, poultry, and seafood far away from produce
Cross-contamination can occur if the same cutting boards and utensils are used simultaneously for raw products that are commonly contaminated (raw meat, eggs, poultry, and seafood) and produce. To prevent the spread of foodborne pathogens, use different cutting boards and utensils or wash them with hot, soapy water between uses.
Cook: use your food thermometer
A visual test may not be sufficient to ensure meat, fish, and seafood are fully cooked. If you are unsure of what temperature to cook an item to, here is a link to a chart with safe internal cooking temperatures for various types of foods. There are also some minimum internal cooking temperatures on the figure below.
Chill: refrigerate food after preperation
After you have finished preparing your healthy meal, remember to keep hot food hot (at or above 140°F) and cold food cold (at or below 40°F). Between 40°F - 140°F is the “danger zone.” Avoid foodborne illness by cooling leftovers quickly in shallow containers and placing them in the refrigerator within two hours of preperation.
Hope these tips help to keep the food you prepare safe and healthy. Wish you all the best with your New Year’s resolutions!
1. Bin, Qi. 2019. Photo by qi bin on Unsplash. Unsplash. Available at: https://unsplash.com/photos/IIzny_Qgw-g. Accessed 21 December 2021.
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2021. Four Simple Steps to Food Safety. Food Safety. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/keep-food-safe.html. Accessed 21 December 2021.
3. U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service. ‘Danger Zone’ (40 °F - 140 °F). Available at: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/food-safety/safe-food-handling-and-preparation/.... Accessed 21 December 2021.
Graduate Research Associate
By: Jack Palillo
I started my Masters of Public Health in September 2020, right as the COVID-19 pandemic was in full swing. There was a lot of uncertainty in my program, especially being in the first cohort of MPH students to begin fully in the middle of the pandemic. One of the most pressing issues was finding an applied practicum experience that would allow me to display the skills I had gained during the first year of my MPH. I saw a listing online for a “Foodborne Disease Epidemiology Practicum Opportunity”, applied and hoped for the best. Little did I know that this experience would be crucial to my development as a graduate student and ultimately change my professional career path.
After interviewing with Dr. Kowalcyk and various CFI students, I was invited to join the SHARE project (Developing Methods for Assessing the Public Health Impact of Foodborne Illness Using Electronic Medical Records). While CFI traditionally operates in-person, COVID-19 required them to transition to virtual meetings with limited time in the lab within the Parker Food Science and Technology Building. SHARE was a great fit for me as it allowed me the opportunity to finetune the biostatistical analytical skills I had gained from my graduate program as well as learn how to code. Coding had been something I wanted to learn for a long time, but my educational path had never allowed me to explore it. During my interviews when I had mentioned it as a goal of mine, I realized I had come to the right place as this was something that was heavily taught and utilized at CFI.
Under Drew Barkley, I was tasked with characterizing patients who had stool samples submitted within OSU’s healthcare system from 2011-2019. It is critical to investigating foodborne illnesses due to the underdiagnosing and underreporting associated with them. There are many reasons why there is an underrepresentation of foodborne illnesses, but it can be best understood by looking at the events required for an illness to be properly reported/diagnosed. “First, the ill person must seek medical care. Second, a specimen must be submitted for testing. Lastly, the illness must be reported to public health officials”.1 Any break in this chain can cause underreporting or misdiagnosis. Characterizing this break in the chain was exactly what one aspect of SHARE was looking to investigate as it could provide a better picture of the impact that foodborne illness may be causing at the local level here in Columbus. By writing my code I was able to analyze data by selecting the correct collection methods and then interpret those results into an effective PowerPoint presentation. I was able to investigate foodborne pathogens such as Salmonella, Shigella, E. coli, and Campylobacter. After much trial and error, I sorted through a data set with over 500,000 observations and presented demographic and diagnostic trends in patients to CFI during our weekly meeting.
Dr. Kowalcyk emphasized that working with her team would teach you professional skills that would go beyond the classroom. While the skills as a newfound data scientist I had learned were very useful, I also developed two very important professional skills. The first was learning to integrate myself into a well-developed team. For the first time in my professional career, I had to be the chair and take minutes for weekly meetings, schedule one-on-one meetings with various team members and even be willing to help out on others’ projects when they had deadlines to meet. The second skill I learned was how to effectively translate research to others. At the end of my practicum, I was required to present my results to both CFI and other MPH students doing their practicums. While CFI was an audience with background knowledge in food safety, many of the other MPH students had focused on other areas of public health. Being able to translate my findings to an audience with minimal knowledge was a challenge, but CFI had prepared me well.
The skills I’ve gained while at CFI have allowed me to successfully defend my master’s thesis and graduate a semester early, submit two abstracts to the International Association for Food Protection 2022 conference, and prepare a manuscript for submission to the Journal of Food Protection. CFI is passionate about mentoring students as this was one of the most rewarding experiences during my graduate education. I will be forever grateful for the skills that CFI has taught me and hope to make a lasting impact in the world of public health research.
Upon graduation, I have accepted a position as a Clinical Data Manager at Massachusetts General Hospital.
1. Scallan, E., et al. “Hospitalisations Due to Bacterial Gastroenteritis: A Comparison of Surveillance and Hospital Discharge Data.” Epidemiology and Infection, vol. 146, no. 8, June 2018, pp. 954–60. PubMed, doi:10.1017/S0950268818000882.
By: Devin LaPolt
Climate change and food safety are two issues that affect all of us. We rely on our food to be nutritious and free from anything that could cause harm, such as pathogens. One factor that can influence food safety is climate change which causes long-term changes in weather patterns. As temperatures increase, pathogens like bacteria, fungi, and protozoa are more likely to cause contamination due to more favorable growth conditions, leading to illness. Increased frequency of heat waves will also affect food safety, as it will become more difficult to keep foods like meat and dairy cold throughout the transportation process as refrigerated trucks must be modified to account for increased length of travel, increased temperature, and increased microbial control measures (USDA, 2015). Food prices will also continue to increase as it becomes more difficult to protect food and prevent spoilage. Food protection involves reducing exposure to the sun, heat, contaminated water, and other sources of pathogens to prevent foodborne illness due to eating unsafe food.
What does this mean for us? As food safety becomes more challenging, there will be an increase in many negative health outcomes related to food consumption. Rates of undernutrition, which is insufficient consumption of food and other nutrients needed to maintain good health, will increase. Undernutrition is associated with climate change effects such as frequent, intense storm events, temperature changes, and flooding. Existing issues of undernutrition or malnutrition will be intensified. Water contamination will persist as a health concern and impact food and agricultural production since contaminated water can lead to contaminated fruits, vegetables, meat, and dairy products. This contamination of fruits and vegetables with continue to increase as chemicals are transported from industrial sites due to flooding and increased severe weather events. Another source of environmental contamination that increases risk to food safety is heavy metal uptake from soil. As temperatures continue to rise due to climate change, uptake of heavy metals into plants will increase (Whitworth, 2020). This poses threats to human health as toxic metals like lead can be ingested through the consumption of contaminated produce. Ultimately, the risk factors associated with climate change will continue to pose a significant health risk for people both locally and globally if action is not taken to mitigate risk.
As food and food-related products become more difficult to protect, there are a variety of actions that can be taken to reduce risk of foodborne illness. Some of these include raising awareness of safe food production, additional water quality monitoring, and implementation of new strategies to prevent contamination of food products with pathogens. This could include new monitoring techniques, new policies for agriculture, meat, poultry, and seafood production, or changes to irrigation systems to prevent contamination of agricultural fields.
Brown, M.E., J.M. Antle, P. Backlund, E.R. Carr, W.E. Easterling, M.K. Walsh, C. Ammann, W. Attavanich, C.B. Barrett, M.F. Bellemare, V. Dancheck, C. Funk, K. Grace, J.S.I. Ingram, H. Jiang, H. Maletta, T. Mata, A. Murray, M. Ngugi, D. Ojima, B. O’Neill, and C. Tebaldi. 2015. Climate Change, Global Food Security, and the U.S. Food System. 146 pages. Available online at http://www.usda.gov/oce/climate_change/FoodSecurity2015Assessment/FullAs....
Whitworth, Joe (2020, April 22). “FAO: Climate change is changing food safety landscape. Food Safety News”, https://www.foodsafetynews.com/2020/04/fao-climate-change-is-changing-fo...
World Health Organization. (2019, July 31). Food Safety, climate change, and the role of WHO. World Health Organization. Retrieved October 15, 2021, from https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/food-safety-climate-change-and-t....
Graduate Research Associate
By: Allison Howell
I joined CFI as a graduate student in the Department of Food Science and Technology in May 2020. While the rest of the world was in a state of chaos, I settled right into my new home at OSU with the Center for Foodborne Illness Research & Prevention (CFI). Over a year later, I am currently in the process of transitioning to a dual-degree program, where I will complete both my PhD in Food Science and Technology and my MPH in Epidemiology with Dr. Kowalcyk as my advisor. In the past year, I have worked on several of CFI’s projects, such as FAIRE, TARTARE, and Chakula Salama, and I have had the chance to work with students from a diverse mix of educational backgrounds. Throughout all my interactions with CFI, one thing has stood out to me: a passion for translating science and reducing the burden of foodborne illness. My past academic and research experiences were not as focused on translational work, which has the potential for impact at the individual, community, and global levels. Getting to work with this group of passionate researchers and scholars in the food safety field has led me to believe that science does not belong behind the locked doors of a research lab or hidden among stacks of books in a library, but it belongs in our communities and everyday conversations.
When the North Market reached out to CFI looking for educational groups to host booths at their summer markets, I jumped at the chance to lead CFI’s efforts. As an undergraduate student, participating in outreach and engagement was one of my favorite activities, so I was excited to continue this with CFI. I connected with Gina Nicholson Kramer, Director of Partnerships and Learning, to learn more about CFI’s brand and how we wanted to present our group at events. Gina offered me support and guidance as I worked through iterations of what our booth at the market would include. I adapted materials from the Partnership for Food Safety Education (PFSE) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and created a trifold display board with interactive components and succinct food safety messages. Gina also connected me with Food Safety Dietitian Mary Angela Miller at KeepSafeFood , who was kind enough to donate a “Basic 4 Food Safety Kit” and several “Food Safety Chopping Mats” to be raffled off and given away at our booth.
During the event, I was joined by CFI alumni, Devon Mendez, MPH, who now works for Columbus Public Health as a STI epidemiologist. We engaged with market-goers and invited them to test their food safety knowledge with our interactive display or to ask any food safety question they wanted answered. Most shoppers would stop and review our display with inquisitive looks and occasionally ask a question or make a comment about how they didn’t realize there were quite so many things to consider about food safety. We were even visited by one guest who wanted to take our picture, so she could share it with her sister who worked in food safety extension in Indiana. Reflecting on the experience, I realize that most people don’t actively think about the safety of their food. It is often assumed that the people who have handled that food before its purchased have kept it safe, and as long as consumers don’t make some egregious mistake in preparing the food, they will be okay. I think getting people to take a proactive role in acknowledging that all food has risk and the safety is not guaranteed is an important first step to making food safer for everyone.
I really enjoyed my time at the Farmers' Market. It was great to take what I have been learning during my time with CFI and apply it to a setting outside of the classroom or academic context. Outreach and education is an important part of promoting safe food handling behaviors, and I look forward to continuing to share this message at additional CFI outreach events in the future!
Graduate Research Associate
I was accepted to Capella University's Master of Public Health program in the spring of 2020 – it was the final day of classes before Covid-19 would shut down the Ohio State campus for the remainder of the semester. It felt like a sigh of relief to know that my next step was in place and was already designed to be completed entirely online. There wouldn't be any on-the-fly adaptation to the new virtual way of academia; this is exactly how the course was built to function. What I wasn't prepared for was the most nerve-wracking portion of my entire degree – securing a practicum in the middle of a pandemic. There was no guidance offered from my university. It was entirely up to the learners to secure a practicum site to successfully graduate. I sent off a dozen applications and emails. I applied to local health departments, the state health department, organizations around Columbus that I had any type of professional interest or alignment with. It seemed like everyone responded with the same message: "We are not currently accepting practicum students due to the pandemic. Please check back later."
In the midst of my discouragement, I received a response from Dr. Kara Morgan that was different from all the responses that came before it. She invited me in for an interview to work on a project looking at seafood consumption during pregnancy and the neurocognitive effects on the child. I spent the two weeks between scheduling my interview and attending my interview studying up on the subject. I wanted to be knowledgeable and prepared when I sat down to talk to her. We discussed my interests in the field and what I hoped to achieve during my practicum. My interests included maternal and fetal health, followed by food safety and security. The project could not have been a better professional fit! I told her that my biggest goal was to gain experience and exposure in the field. Funnily enough, the most significant public health crisis in my lifetime was gatekeeping my ability to gain the two things that I needed the most. Dr. Morgan had never worked with a student that wasn't an Ohio State student, especially not one with the strange practicum schedule that I was requesting. But despite all of that, she offered me a role on a project with CFI, and I was ecstatic to accept.
During my first week at my practicum, Dr. Morgan introduced me to a partner on the project, and together they explained my role to me. I was the second reviewer on a meta-analysis. I would spend four hours every Monday in the CFI office completing a meta-analysis of 64 journal articles. I had never conducted a meta-analysis before. But it sounded like something I could do - read through the journal articles, collect the data we were interested in. Easy enough.
So, for eight weeks, that is exactly what I did. I came in every Monday; I scrolled through the journal articles. I collected the data of interest: year of publication, number of participants, outcomes being measured, study limitations. Looking at all the research studies was beneficial to me in one of my Research Methods course this semester. The time that I spent shuffling through the articles during my practicum gave a big boost in my ability to decipher through the entire article to find the important pieces. It also helped me feel not so overwhelmed by massive journal articles that felt indigestible, because now I know exactly where to find the information I’m seeking. It saved a lot of time and anxiety when completing assignments. But more importantly, I met an incredible group of intellectuals. I met other MPH and Ph.D. students. I got to discuss their education and career paths with them. We got to reflect on our goals and establish networks with one another. They offered me encouragement that I didn't know I needed at the time. On the ninth week, I collaborated with my partner on the project. We compared our analyses and had constructive conversations about the differences we noticed and how to correct them. I got to meet a variety of professionals in the department. While I continued chipping away at my beast of a meta-analysis, I listened in to several meetings that I wasn't necessarily invited to and gained a world of exposure to different sectors in the field and different issues and topics that CFI and its staff play a role in. I got to absorb a seemingly whole new world of knowledge while I watched the entire department work as a well-oiled machine.
However, I underestimated the absolute confidence that I would have gained from this practicum experience. I think back to sitting in my interview with Dr. Morgan, where I had no experience in the field. My only goal was to get my foot in the door. I think back to my first day of the practicum experience, staring at my blank, daunting spreadsheet, unsure of where to begin. The growth that this practicum experience has offered to me has been unmatched. I have another 10 weeks of my practicum to complete with CFI. Dr. Morgan and I have discussed moving to a new project when I return for the second portion. But I feel more confident than I ever have to step into a new project, and brand-new professional world. My practicum project with Dr. Morgan and CFI has helped equip me with skills and tools that I'll need to be successful, and for that, I will forever be grateful.
In the past, food safety and nutrition were generally not considered jointly, but were managed as two separate issues. That separation can lead to less-than-optimal decision making. There is a new interest in building a decision-making framework that includes both nutrition and food safety jointly, with the intent of improving health outcomes.
One issue in which food safety and nutrition are relevant is seafood consumption during pregnancy. Due to mercury contamination in most bodies of water and therefore in the aquatic food chain, federal guidance asks pregnant women to limit their consumption of seafood due to the risk of impact on their unborn child from mercury. This warning often leads pregnant women to avoid eating seafood altogether. But we also know that seafood provides essential nutrition for the unborn child and research has shown the positive outcomes from prenatal seafood consumption. So, what if the lack of seafood in pregnant women’s diets could actually be doing more harm than good?
As part of our Masters in Public Health Program, we are required to complete a practicum that required to work with an organization on a project or topic related to public health and produce some sort of outcome that reflects our experience. This experience is meant to give us real world experience in the public health field. We were challenged to meet some competencies, such as analyze and interpret data obtained from an epidemiologic investigation and perform effectively on interprofessional teams. We were both excited to work on the Health Outcomes of Prenatal Seafood Consumption Project (HOPs) to meet our practicum requirements. The project’s overall goal is to quantify the impact of current levels of prenatal seafood consumption on the health outcomes of children in the United States. This can be broken down into two parts. Gabby’s practicum experience focused on determining how to update estimates of prenatal consumption of seafood. While Liberty’s practicum experience focused on preparing for a meta-analysis to investigate the impact of seafood on child neurodevelopmental outcome. Once we come up with an estimate for seafood consumption, we can use information from the meta-analysis to determine how the cognitive development of children here in the United States is being affected by seafood consumption.
As part of the HOPs project, we worked on an interprofessional team of public health professionals, along with a physician, a lawyer, and individuals who used to work with the Food and Drug Administration. As a team, we worked together to set goals and benchmarks for the project. We also met with others who worked in the field of nutrition to get their input on different aspects of the project. We examined systematic reviews and cohort studies and gained experience interpreting the results of data analysis.
Over the summer, we identified a data source to quantify seafood consumption and started collecting and preparing the data that will be used in the meta-analysis. Both of us plan to work with CFI for our culminating project to further examine the impact of current levels of prenatal seafood consumption on the health outcomes of the children here in the United States.
By: Nadira Yasmin
A question often posed to students and professionals on the Center for Foodborne Illness Research and Prevention (CFI) team is: What is food safety? Although the answer may be vast, one thing is for sure, there is a significance to food safety and why it is studied. Food safety is the scientific method used to reduce and eliminate foodborne illness and injury. Food safety is comprised of several practices, such as proper food production, transportation, storage, and preparation. These practices preserve food quality in order to prevent contamination and reduce foodborne illness (Oyarzabal & VanRenterghem, 2021). Through research, food safety allows for the identification of the burden of disease from foodborne illnesses, which then drives the allocation of resources for the further study and enhancement of safety measures within the food industry.
Food safety can also be viewed as a system. The goal of this system is the reduction or elimination of germs/pathogens in foods that can cause illness. Furthermore, when implemented properly through education and awareness, food safety can influence people’s behavior on food preparation, storage, and management practices. Behavioral science and surveillance are two proactive approaches to monitoring food safety. These approaches allow for continuous improvements in food safety, growing knowledge on foodborne disease outbreaks, and greater prevention methods.
Many times, consumers confuse food safety with food poisoning. Food safety, however, involves the practices that help prevent foodborne illness and make food safe for consumption. Food safety does not guarantee zero risk, but by implementing the right methodologies, there can be minimal risk to the consumer. Organic food is often mistaken for clean food. When in fact, to make the “organic” claim or use the USDA organic seal, the food must adhere to strict production, handling, and labeling procedures, go through the organic certification process, and must be grown without the use of growth regulators, food additives, pesticides, artificial fertilizers, or bioengineered genes (GMOs). Clean food, on the other hand, is food that is free of preservatives and has clean labeling. According to the Institute for Food Technologists, a clean label consists of making a product using as few ingredients as possible and ensuring that those ingredients are recognized and regarded as “wholesome” by the consumers (Velissariou, 2018).
Cleanliness is a major factor in preventing foodborne illness by the simple act of proper handwashing before handling food (Food safety and Inspection Service, n.d.). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have created “Four Steps to Food Safety.” The steps consist of: (1) Clean: washing hands and surfaces often; (2) Separate: avoiding cross-contamination of food, especially meat; (3) Cook: cooking the food to its optimal temperature for consumption; and (4) Chill: refrigerating promptly, especially perishable foods (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020).
Like other industries, tradeoffs exist within food safety also. For example, if there is a change made from using fertilizer to manure in the agricultural production sector, the improper handling of the manure can still lead to disease. There is also a cultural aspect to food safety, where a wide array of acceptable methods exist due to the variation of how food is prepared and consumed all around the world. CFI has made significant advancements and reforms within the food safety industry and is working tirelessly toward the elimination of foodborne illnesses altogether. With knowing the importance of food safety now, What does food safety mean to you?
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, August 14). Four steps to food safety. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/keep-food-safe.html.
Food safety and Inspection Service. Food Safety | Food Safety and Inspection Service. (n.d.). https://www.fsis.usda.gov/food-safety.
Oyarzabal, O. A., & VanRenterghem, B. B. (2021, February 22). The meaning of food safety. Food Safety RSS. https://www.food-safety.com/articles/6545-the-meaning-of-food-safety.
Velissariou, M. (2018, November 12). What is Clean Label? IFT.org. http://blog.ift.org/what-is-clean-label.