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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).



Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2019. “The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World.” 2019.

Food Security and Information Network, Global Network Against Food Crises. 2020. “2020 Global Report on Food Crises.”

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.

Integrated Food Security Phase Classification. 2020. “IPCINFO Website.” 2020.

Johnson, Kiersten. 2020. “Tracking the Perfect Storm in West Africa: COVID-19 & Desert Locusts.” 2020.

Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. 2020. “Food Insecurity.” 2020.

United Nations. 2020. “About the Sustainable Development Goals.” 2020.

USAID. 2020. “Responding to COVID-19’s Impact on Resilience and Food Security.” 2020.

World Food Programme. 2020. “COVID-19 Will Double Number of People Facing Food Crises Unless Swift Action Is Taken.” 2020.

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.

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

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.


Tracy Turner



Barbara Kowalcyk
CFAES Food Science and Technology

Sanja Ilic
OSU Extension, Food Safety

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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

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


Tracy Turner



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

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