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The Impact of COVID-19 on Foodborne Disease

March 26, 2021 - 10:46am -- cellar.21@osu.edu

By: Drew Barkley

One year ago, community transmission of COVID-19 in the United States led several states to impose stay-at-home orders to reduce person-to-person transmission of the virus. As the year went on, messaging on hand hygiene, mask wearing, and social distancing were stressed as public health measures that were our best tools for combatting COVID-19. While the measures used to prevent the spread of COVID-19 varied from state to state, the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted life as we knew it and changed the way we have been living our daily lives since then. Early on, there was speculation that these newly emphasized public health measures would reduce the spread of other diseases as well. Hand washing had always been recommended but not always followed. One year since the COVID-19 pandemic began, we now have the data to begin looking at how the reaction to the pandemic impacted the spread of other communicable diseases.

Click here to read more.

Practice Social Distancing - Photo by DICSON on Unsplash

Proper Meat Thermometer Use - Tips for the Home Cook

March 15, 2021 - 4:59pm -- cellar.21@osu.edu

By: Devon Mendez

With the continuation of social distancing and stay-at-home orders, individuals are cooking at home more often than they may have in the past. While this cooking increase can lead to healthier meals, proper food safety must be followed to kill any potential foodborne pathogens. Although many people own a food thermometer, many people do not know how to use them properly. When cooking meat or eggs, a food thermometer is an essential kitchen item in preventing foodborne illness.

While all food thermometers are capable of reading temperatures, they are not created equal. Even though all thermometers can register temperature, each does it in different ways, making different types of thermometers appropriate for different uses.

Though not an exhaustive list, the chart below gives additional information on some thermometer types commonly used in the home kitchen. While no one individual needs all these thermometers, cooks should use this knowledge to help guide the thermometer they choose to ensure it is appropriate for their regular needs. All thermometers included in chart can be found with relative ease either in store or online. 

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meat with thermometer

Meet Our TARTARE Team

January 26, 2021 - 11:48am -- cellar.21@osu.edu

By: Laura Binkley

Achenef Melaku Beyene DVM, MSc, is a TARTARE fellow working on his PhD at the University of Gondar, Ethiopia that recently spent 6 months (end of 2019 beginning of 2020) here at The Ohio State University gaining research experience in Dr. Ahmed Yousef’s lab. Below, we have interviewed Dr. Achenef about his experience and current work.

What is your main research question as part of TARTARE?

As a part of TARTARE and my PhD work, I will try to find the best answers for the following questions:

  1. To what extent is food of animal origin, particularly raw meat and milk in and around Gondar, contaminated by non-typhoidal Salmonella (NTS) and Shiga Toxin producing E. coli (STEC)?
  2. What is the contribution of NTS and STEC to foodborne illness of the community in and around Gondar?
  3. Is there any molecular relationship among NTS and STEC isolates from human, animal, and food so as to assess the transmission dynamics and design appropriate control and prevention strategies?
  4. Is it possible to minimize contamination during the production of milk for dairy farmers by providing training on intervention techniques for dairy farmers?

What drew you to the field of Microbiology?

Microbes are part of our life, some of them cause disease in humans and animals; others are beneficial, particularly in dairy and other industries. So, to minimize the harmful effects and maximize the benefits, it is essential to know about them and work with them. In developing countries like Ethiopia, several diseases due to microbes are not yet controlled and introduce huge morbidity and mortality. These are all factors that drew my attention to learning more about them and deciding to work on them.

What are some of the methodologies you were able to learn throughout your experience at The Ohio State University in Dr. Yousef’s lab?

During my six months stay in Dr. Yousef’s laboratory, I got the opportunity to practice on a range of general techniques to specific molecular procedures. The first two months of my trainings were focused on general bacteriological techniques. This was followed by detection and confirmation of Salmonella in food samples using standard procedures. I collected samples in local and international food stores in Columbus and was able to analyze them. The detection procedure includes culturing of the food samples using nonselective and selective media. In addition, the suspected colonies of bacteria were confirmed by a biochemical test (API- 20E) and molecular producers (both conventional and multiplex PCR). Towards the end of the period, detecting Shiga toxin producing E. coli (STEC) was the focus of the training. In the meantime, I was able to attend lectures on food microbiology and molecular diagnosis of infectious diseases. Generally, I strongly believed that the training boosts my capacity and prepared me to conduct other microbiological or molecular techniques easily and efficiently.

Have you been able to implement any of these methodologies in Ethiopia?

Yes, the plan is to implement almost all procedures in Ethiopia under the TARTARE project. The methodologies will be applied to detect Salmonella and STEC in food of animal origin, particularly in raw meat and milk. However, the current COVID-19 pandemic is creating obstacles with implementing methodologies in Ethiopia.

What was your favorite or most enjoyable aspect of your experience at The Ohio State University?

I like the laboratory working environment, it is well-equipped and the necessary facilities are available. If there is a demand for reagents, the purchasing and delivery process was so quick. Working with the team in the laboratory with active follow up by the professor was so great. This was very interesting and allowed me to learn more. There was also a weekly lab meeting to assess progresses and solve problems if any. If such conditions were fulfilled in Gondar, I would have finished my PhD work within 6 additional months.

What are your greatest challenges thus far with implementation?

The greatest challenge to implementing methodologies acquired from Ohio is absence of a biosafety level II laboratory to handle Salmonella and other pathogens in the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Gondar. There was a plan to renovate one of our laboratories. The process was started; however, it has been interrupted due to the current pandemic. I am hoping that the process will be commenced and the issue will be resolved. Otherwise, we will have to look for other laboratories with better facilities.

Is there anything else you would like to share with us about your experience working in foodborne illness research with The Ohio State University?

Yes, I would like to acknowledge individuals and institutes that directly or indirectly helped me for the success of the training. I would like to thank Prof. Ahmed Yousef, Prof. Wondwossen A. Gebreyes, Dr. Ahmed G. Abdelhamid, and Dr. Barbara B. Kowalcyk for their technical assistance and guidance. I am also grateful to NIH Fogarty International center, OHEART, GOHI, East Africa Regional Office for the opportunity. I would like to extend my thanks to The Ohio State University International office for the reception and guidance to make my stay smooth and fruitful. The assistance of Kayleigh Gallagher was also so great, thank you. Finally, I would like to acknowledge lab members in the department of Food Science and Technology for their help during the practice.

Achenef Melaku Beyene

Acrylamides: The Hidden Danger in Your Favorite Potato Dishes

January 12, 2021 - 11:31am -- cellar.21@osu.edu

By: Devon Mendez

Potatoes, in all varieties, are one of the most beloved comfort foods in the United States, with the average American consuming nearly 117 pounds of potatoes per year, largely in the form of frozen French fries and tater-tots. While there is little argument that these fried delicacies are a favorite of many, these delicious dishes can pose a risk to more than your waistline. This risk occurs when potatoes are cooked using high temperature cooking methods (above 248 degrees F) such as frying, roasting, or baking. When high carbohydrate foods such as potatoes are cooked at these temperatures, their natural sugars and the amino acid asparagine, undergo a chemical change that producing the compound acrylamide. While this compound is a result of a natural processes, acrylamide has been shown to cause cancer in animals and is recognized as a potential carcinogenic in humans by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). As such, the FDA recommends that individuals limit the amount of acrylamide in their diets and do their best to consume their favorite potato dishes in the safest way possible.

Potatoes

By following some basic food storage, preparation, and selection tips individuals can minimize their acrylamide exposure and continue to enjoy their favorite potato-based foods.

Tips to reduce acrylamide exposure when consuming potatoes:

  • Soak potatoes 15-30 minutes before baking or frying to help reduce their starch content, in turn reducing the amount of acrylamide produced during the cooking process
  • Limit the number of potato dishes consumed that are prepared using frying, roasting, and baking
    • “Wet” prep potato dishes, such as mashed potatoes and potato salad, do not lead to a significant amount of acrylamides
  • Store potatoes outside of the refrigerator
    • Refrigeration prior to cooking can increase the level of acrylamide produced during the cooking process
  • Cook sliced potato products such as French fries and potato slices for less time
    • Longer cooking times yield higher levels of acrylamides
    • Aim for lightly browned potatoes rather than dark brown when cooking

While it is impossible to eliminate acrylamides from our diets, taking small steps to reduce day-to-day exposure can help reduce any potential risk. By following the simple steps outlined above, as well as consuming a diet containing a variety of foods, individuals can significantly reduce their exposure to acrylamide. Diet diversity is especially important in children, who often enjoy foods that are naturally high in acrylamides such as French fries, tater-tots, and potato chips. As with almost anything, moderation is key, and by enjoying a healthy variety of foods prepared in a variety of ways, we can all continue to enjoy all of our favorite fried and roasted potato dishes without too much concern.

References:

  1. https://www.fda.gov/food/chemicals/acrylamide
  2. https://www.fda.gov/food/chemicals/acrylamide-and-diet-food-storage-and-food-preparation
  3. https://www.who.int/foodsafety/areas_work/chemical-risks/acrylamide/en/

Devon MendezDevon Mendez

Graduate Intern

mendez.137@buckeyemail.osu.edu 

 

 

Potatoes

Food Safety Tips for the Holidays

December 14, 2020 - 3:12pm -- cellar.21@osu.edu

By: Vanora Davila

It is that time of year! The holiday season is here and if your family is anything like mine, you are probably already thinking about all the delicious meals you will be making to celebrate and share with your loved ones!

The end-of-the-year holidays can be some of the most memorable and enjoyable moments one can experience, but inappropriate food-handling behaviors can turn the most exciting of times into despair.

Holiday Table photo by Christopher Paul High on unsplash.com

Understanding Produce Regulations

December 7, 2020 - 4:16pm -- cellar.21@osu.edu

By: Allison Howell

Federal regulations are complicated, technical, and often difficult for consumers to understand. But everyone eats produce. A basic understanding of what types of produce or produce commodities are included or not included in federal regulations and what those regulations mean can help consumers make informed decisions about buying, preparing, and consuming produce safely.

Background on FSMA

cranberries

This Little Piggy Came From Omaha, NE

November 25, 2020 - 11:48am -- cellar.21@osu.edu

By: Aaron Beczkiewicz

Given that food is such an integral part of daily life, it is not surprising that concepts related to food are often represented in childhood rhymes like “This little piggy went to the market…” While I am pretty confident none of us really understood what “went to the market” meant the first time we were introduced to that rhyme, our understanding evolved as we grew and developed. But how much does our understanding of where foods come from and how they are produced actually matter?

box containing meat

Is There Something Fishy About Homemade Sushi?

November 16, 2020 - 6:19pm -- cellar.21@osu.edu

By: Drew Barkley

Last year, I was chatting with a friend about different foods we liked to prepare at home. Having grown up in the south, I mentioned that some staples of my cooking were various casseroles, fried chicken, and homemade biscuits. My friend, having been raised in an Asian-American household, was used to preparing different stir-fries, dumplings, and ramen. While all of that sounded delicious and got me thinking about dinner prematurely, the next food she mentioned caught me off guard. She told me that she and her sister love making homemade sushi together.

I was initially taken aback. The idea that anyone was making sushi at home on their own seemed risky to me. Yet, here was someone I knew that was preparing sushi regularly in their own home. I immediately became curious asking for all the details of how she and her sister made their own sushi. She said that they went to the store and bought whatever fish looked good to them that day. To make the rolls, they would lay a bed of sticky white rice over seaweed and top with the fish, cucumber, avocado, cream cheese, and whatever else sounded good to them that day. Then they would roll it up, slice it up into individual rolls and enjoy. Sensing that I was nervous about her homemade sushi, she reassured me that neither she nor her sister had ever gotten sick and they always use what she referred to as “fresh” fish. While I wanted to mention that “fresh” fish is not the same thing as “safe” fish, I let the conversation end there as I went to go do some research on my own.

First, I want to make the disclaimer that I have never made homemade sushi. While I do enjoy eating sushi, I will leave its preparation to skilled, trained professionals working in fully inspected restaurants. However, I wanted to highlight specific actions you can take to insure your sushi is safe if you are making it at home (or even if you are eating it at a restaurant).  

Sushi - photo by Louis Hansel on unsplash.com

CFI Welcomes New TARTARE Project Manager

November 4, 2020 - 9:26am -- cellar.21@osu.edu

We would like to welcome our new TARTARE Project Manager Nasandra Wright M.P.H., R.S. Nasandra is a dedicated and experienced environmental health professional who is committed to developing and improving the delivery of food safety initiatives at the state, county, and local levels.  After spending nearly two decades working in the private sector and in public health, including stints as a Public Health Commissioner, Environmental Health Director, Project Manager, and Food Safety Specialist, Wright forged alliances and built support among various stakeholders in order to m

Nasandra Wright

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