Five food safety tips to keep your family healthy

Preparing a salad in the kitchen

By Kirsten Larson, manager, Food Safety, APHL, and Robyn Randolph, senior specialist, Food Laboratory Accreditation, APHL

In this time of COVID-19, the ways in which we get and consume our food likely look much different from a year ago. Whether it is takeout, delivery, meal kits or homemade, meals at home are occurring much more frequently. Some of you might be using this time to brush up on your cooking skills, hoping to become a competitor on Chopped. But before you can become the next Chopped champion, it is important to know the basics of food safety–serving raw chicken to a judge (or a family member) can have serious consequences. Here are five food safety tips to help keep your meals safe:

  1. Keep your space clean

No one wants to eat food from a dirty kitchen. Make sure you are washing your hands before cooking, especially after handling raw meats, poultry or eggs, as these items can carry foodborne pathogens. Sanitize your cutting boards, utensils and countertops with a bleach solution or hot, soapy water to kill any bacteria that might be lingering. Wash your fruits and veggies with water, even before peeling as this can help rid them of bacteria-containing debris that might be lingering on the surface. However, you should not wash raw meats, poultry or eggs since potential pathogens can be aerosolized and spread around your kitchen.

  1. Separate food items

Like the Real Housewives on a reunion special, foods need to be kept separate for the safety of others. Cross-contamination is a huge source of foodborne illness, but it can be avoided by using different utensils and surfaces when preparing your meal. When making chicken fajitas, for example, you should use a dedicated cutting board for slicing your chicken and other raw meats and a different cutting board for slicing your peppers and onions. When grilling hamburgers, do not use the same plate to transfer the raw and cooked burger patties.

  1. Cook foods to the correct temperature

The food thermometer is a critical kitchen tool that will not only help prevent overcooked pork chops, it will ensure that you are cooking foods to a safe temperature. USDA provides guidance on the safe internal temperature for foods, including:

    • Steaks, chops and roasts (Beef, pork, lamb, veal, fish) – minimum 145°F (62°C)
    • Ground meats – 160°F (71°C)
    • Poultry – 165°F (73°C)

Be sure that you take the temperature of each food item you prepare. Reheat all leftovers to 165°F. Know your microwave’s wattage so that you can follow cooking instructions on frozen food items.

  1. Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold

“Hot” means 140°F (60°C) or warmer, while “cold” is 40°F (4.4°C) or colder. Do not keep food out for more than two hours at room temperature or for more than one hour above 90°F (32°C), as this will become a breeding ground for pathogens. If you are eating outside this summer, consider dishes that include no eggs or dairy to decrease the risk of foodborne illness.

  1. Store your food safely

Food safety is not just about how you prepare the meal, it’s also about how the food is stored. Be sure to cook or freeze fresh poultry, fish and ground meat within two days of purchase–other meats should be used within 3-5 days. Use cooked leftovers within four days or throw them away. Ensure meat and poultry packaging is not leaking, and keep thawing meat or poultry away from fresh foods like fruits or veggies in the refrigerator (on the bottom shelf to prevent drips).

Being a great cook is not just about making delicious food. A great cook avoids intestinal mayhem by ensuring that food is safe to consume. With these food safety tips, you will be ready to create a pathogen-free feast for your friends and family…when you’re ready to have folks over for dinner.

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Beyond COVID-19: How public health laboratories keep us safe every day

people in a group wearing masks

by Jody DeVoll, advisor, Communications, APHL

Public health laboratories have figured so prominently in media coverage of coronavirus (COVID-19) testing that one might assume that this was their sole function. In fact, they protect our health and safety through a multiplicity of programs and services that touch us at all stages of our lives. The examples below represent a mere fraction of public health laboratories’ wide-ranging activities on our behalf.

Infectious Diseases

In the spring of 2020, public health laboratories’ communicable disease divisions are operating at full steam. In addition to testing for the coronavirus, they are conducting testing and surveillance for diseases ranging from HIV, hepatitis and TB, to rabies and vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles and mumps. They also are monitoring influenza viruses to aid in selection of strains to be included in next year’s flu vaccine. As the weather warms, they will begin testing and surveillance for West Nile Virus and other mosquito-borne diseases.

Environmental Health

Environmental health divisions are balancing routine functions, such as oversight of drinking water quality, with readiness for emergencies. Any day could bring a chemical spill on the Interstate, PFAS contamination of a playground, flooding that leads to drinking water contamination or a toxic algae bloom.

A select group of laboratories, members of the National Biomonitoring Network, test human fluids for potentially harmful chemicals and their metabolites. This test data, when correlated with environmental studies, can help to pinpoint the location of health threats and assess the need for remedial action. In addition, many public health laboratories are involved in testing the quality of cannabis products, analyzing opioids common to their region and identifying the contents of locally available e-cigarette and vaping products.

Newborn Screening

Since babies continue to be born even during a pandemic, newborn screening divisions are screening newborns for heritable conditions not visible at birth. These conditions often require immediate treatment to prevent a lifetime of disabilities or death. Public health laboratories are responsible for screening of 97% of the more than four million newborns born in the US each year.

Food Safety

Food Safety teams continue to sleuth for pathogens causing outbreaks of foodborne disease. As members of PulseNet, the national laboratory network for foodborne disease surveillance, they identify the genetic signature of pathogens implicated in cases of foodborne disease. They compare these signatures with those from other cases and share the data with epidemiologists to identify and stop outbreaks before they spread. Food safety teams may also test foods suspected to have caused an outbreak and search for harmful contaminants and adulterants in human and animal food.

Public Health Preparedness and Response

Emergency Response teams are supporting the COVID-19 response while detecting and responding to other biological, chemical and radiological threats and natural disasters. Because public health laboratories form the backbone of the Laboratory Response Network (LRN), emergency response teams are veterans of the 2009 H1N1 Influenza outbreak, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-related Coronavirus (SARS), Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), Ebola, Zika and other events. A team from the Texas Department of State Health Services Public Health Laboratory was the first to detect Ebola in the US.

Global Health

In addition, selected public health laboratory staff are assisting stakeholders from other countries to develop national laboratory systems, laboratory infrastructure and trained laboratory personnel. Their contributions include strategic planning, design of informatics systems, managerial and technical training, mentoring and other technical assistance.

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Lab Culture Ep. 21: 2019 Year in Review

Collage of photos depicting APHL's 2019 year in review

Are we already at the end of 2019?! While to many of us it felt like the year flew by, APHL staff, members and partners accomplished a LOT in an effort to protect the public’s health. In this episode, Scott Becker, APHL’s executive director, reviews some of the highlights of the year along with Gynene Sullivan, APHL’s manager of communications, who is finalizing our Annual Report.

Follow APHL on TwitterFacebook and Instagram so you don’t miss anything!

Links:

APHL: Lung Injury Response Associated with Vaping

CDC: Outbreak of Lung Injury Associated with the Use of E-Cigarette, or Vaping, Products

APHL work on opioids

Data: Elemental to Health advocacy campaign

Supporting rapid exchange of public health data is urgent, crucial and laden with challenges

APHL AIMS Platform

Lab Matters (Fall 2019): Making Data Fly

NewSTEPs Data Repository

APHL Newborn Screening Systems Quality Improvement Projects Award Recipients Announced

APHL Public Health Laboratory Fellowships

APHL Emerging Leader Program

Lab Culture Ep. 9: What is the APHL Emerging Leader Program?

CDC: US Measles Cases and Outbreaks in 2019

“Launching Whole Genome Sequencing in the Public Health Realm” Lab Matters (Fall 2013)

Accreditation for Human and Animal Food Labs

APHL Conferences

Lab Culture Extra: Progress in Sierra Leone

APHL Global Health Program: Countries we serve

Global Laboratory Leadership Programme (GLLP)

Laboratory Response Network (LRN)

Lab Culture Ep. 20: 20 Years of the Laboratory Response Network

“Two Decades of Preparedness Excellence: The Laboratory Response Network” Lab Matters (Fall 2019)

The LRN’s job is to prepare, detect and respond. But what exactly does that mean?

Strengthening Lab Biosafety & Biosecurity

“Ensuring Readiness for Rabies in Puerto Rico” Lab Matters (Spring 2019)

“Public Health System Recovery in Full Swing: Hurricane Response in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands” Lab Matters (Spring 2019)

In Puerto Rico, a new molecular bacteriology lab allows better control of foodborne outbreaks

APHL Publications

“US officials identify ‘strong culprit’ in vaping illnesses” Associated Press (video interview)

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In Puerto Rico, a new molecular bacteriology lab allows better control of foodborne outbreaks

Public health laboratory scientist performing tests

Sometimes a new facility is more than just four walls and a roof. In Puerto Rico, it was the springboard to improving foodborne outbreak response on the whole island.

In May 2019, Puerto Rico inaugurated a new molecular bacteriology laboratory at the Puerto Rico Department of Health’s laboratory (PRDOH) in San Juan. The original laboratory had been out of commission since Hurricane Maria devastated the island in 2017, and was rebuilt with APHL contracting support for repair and redesign. Today, the new laboratory boasts additional space for laboratory instruments, supplies and staff, as well as a reliable roof.

With the molecular bacteriology laboratory up and running, the PRDOH could take on a top goal: implementing whole genome sequencing (WGS) for foodborne outbreak response. WGS provides faster detection of pathogens than alternative methods, leading to rapid implementation of prevention and control measures and speedier investigation of foodborne outbreaks. Like other members of PulseNet, the US network for detection of foodborne outbreaks, the PRDOH needed to add WGS as another detection tool. Now, with a bit of assistance, it could.

APHL helped the PRDOH by procuring Illumina’s MiSeq Sequencing Platform and supporting installation and hands-on training for laboratory staff. The association also facilitated staff travel to CDC headquarters in Atlanta for a deeper dive into WGS methodology and procured BioNumerics software to upgrade the laboratory’s database so it could support WGS data. These efforts were all financed with crisis response funding from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

To date, the molecular bacteriology laboratory has made excellent progress toward implementing WGS methods for foodborne pathogens. The laboratory is now working toward validation of these methods; once validation is completed it will apply for certification under the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments Program, which oversees standards and certification for human testing in the US. The laboratory also plans to introduce a new tool—matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization – time of flight (MALDI-TOF) mass spectrometry—as a complement to WGS in the effort to detect foodborne outbreaks.

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In Puerto Rico, a new molecular bacteriology lab allows better control of foodborne outbreaks

Public health laboratory scientist performing tests

Sometimes a new facility is more than just four walls and a roof. In Puerto Rico, it was the springboard to improving foodborne outbreak response on the whole island.

In May 2019, Puerto Rico inaugurated a new molecular bacteriology laboratory at the Puerto Rico Department of Health’s laboratory (PRDOH) in San Juan. The original laboratory had been out of commission since Hurricane Maria devastated the island in 2017, and was rebuilt with APHL contracting support for repair and redesign. Today, the new laboratory boasts additional space for laboratory instruments, supplies and staff, as well as a reliable roof.

With the molecular bacteriology laboratory up and running, the PRDOH could take on a top goal: implementing whole genome sequencing (WGS) for foodborne outbreak response. WGS provides faster detection of pathogens than alternative methods, leading to rapid implementation of prevention and control measures and speedier investigation of foodborne outbreaks. Like other members of PulseNet, the US network for detection of foodborne outbreaks, the PRDOH needed to add WGS as another detection tool. Now, with a bit of assistance, it could.

APHL helped the PRDOH by procuring Illumina’s MiSeq Sequencing Platform and supporting installation and hands-on training for laboratory staff. The association also facilitated staff travel to CDC headquarters in Atlanta for a deeper dive into WGS methodology and procured BioNumerics software to upgrade the laboratory’s database so it could support WGS data.

To date, the molecular bacteriology laboratory has made excellent progress toward implementing WGS methods for foodborne pathogens. The laboratory is now working toward validation of these methods; once validation is completed it will apply for certification under the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments Program, which oversees standards and certification for human testing in the US. The laboratory also plans to introduce a new tool—matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization – time of flight (MALDI-TOF) mass spectrometry—as a complement to WGS in the effort to detect foodborne outbreaks.

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New Lab Matters: When the water comes, be prepared

New Lab Matters: When the water comes, be prepared | www.APHLblog.org

According to a study by the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the volume of rainfall from storms will rise by as much as 80% in North America by the end of the century. Not only do storms and floods threaten public health laboratory facilities, but receding floodwaters pose serious public health risks. As our feature article shows, the best weapon in a public health laboratory’s arsenal is preparation for inundation…from any source.

Here are just a few of this issue’s highlights:

Subscribe and get Lab Matters delivered to your inbox, or read Lab Matters on your mobile device.

 

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Lab Culture Ep. 11: What if there were no public health labs?

Lab Culture Ep. 11: What if there were no public health labs? | www.APHLblog.org

Maybe the saying is true: you don’t know what you had until it is gone. For the families in this episode, the absence of public health laboratories turned their worlds upside down and negatively impacted both the present and future. These families represent us all and highlight the vulnerabilities that would exist if there were no public health laboratories working continuously to keep our communities and populations safe.

This is the second episode in the series produced by members of the Emerging Leader Program cohort 10.

You can listen to our show via the player embedded below or on iTunes, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts. Please be sure to subscribe to Lab Culture so you never miss an episode.

Lab Culture Ep. 11: What if there were no public health labs? | www.APHLblog.orgEmerging Infectious Disease Response:

APHL’s Infectious Disease Program

Laboratory Response Network (LRN)

Interviewer: Kate Wainwright, PhD, D(ABMM), HCLD (ABB), MPH, MSN, RN, deputy director, Public Health Protection and Laboratory Services, Indiana State Department of Health

Expert: Peter Shult, PhD, director, Communicable Disease Division; associate director, Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene, School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Wisconsin-Madison

 

Lab Culture Ep. 11: What if there were no public health labs? | www.APHLblog.orgNewborn Screening:

APHL’s Newborn Screening Program

NewSTEPs

Baby’s First Test

Interviewer: Josh Rowland, MBA, MT(ASCP), manager, Training and Workforce Development, Association of Public Health Laboratories

Expert: Miriam Schachter, PhD, research scientist 3, New Jersey Department of Health, Newborn Screening Laboratory

 

Lab Culture Ep. 11: What if there were no public health labs? | www.APHLblog.orgFoodborne Illness:

APHL’s Food Safety Program

5 Things You Didn’t Know (but Need to Know) About Listeria

Interviewer: Samir Patel, PhD, FCCM, (D)ABMM, clinical microbiologist, Public Health Ontario; Toronto, Canada

Expert: Vanessa Allen, MD, MPH, medical microbiologist, chief of microbiology, Public Health Ontario; Toronto, Canada

 

Narrator:  Erin Bowles, B.S., MT(ASCP), Wisconsin Clinical Laboratory Network coordinator and co-biosafety officer, Communicable Disease Division, Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene, School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Contributor: Emily Travanty, PhD, scientific director, Laboratory Services Division, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment

Special thanks to Jim Hermanson at the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene for his help in recording this episode.

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Lab Culture Ep. 10: Public health labs do that?!

Lab Culture Ep. 10: Public health labs do that?! | www.APHLblog.org

Public health laboratories do a great deal of work that impacts the daily lives of everyone in America. Do you know exactly how much they’re doing? The first episode produced by members of the Emerging Leader Program cohort 10 looks at some of the work performed by public health lab scientists.

You can listen to our show via the player embedded below or on iTunes, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts. Please be sure to subscribe to Lab Culture so you never miss an episode.

Links

(*indicates ELP cohort 10 member)

Water Quality Testing

Interviewer: *Amanda Hughes, program manager of ambient air quality monitoring, State Hygienic Lab at the University of Iowa

Experts:
Michael Schueller, assistant director of operations, State Hygienic Lab at the University of Iowa
Nancy Hall, program manager, Environmental Microbiology, State Hygienic Lab at the University of Iowa

Water quality testing at the State Hygienic Lab at the University of Iowa

Alcohol Testing

Interviewer: *Gitika Panicker, microbiologist, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Expert: Laura Bailey, director, Office of Alcohol Testing, Arkansas State Public Health Laboratory

Alcohol testing at the Arkansas State Public Health Laboratory

 

Influenza Testing

Interviewer: *Shondra Johnson, laboratory information management system administrator, Missouri State Public Health Laboratory

Expert: Jessica Bauer, molecular unit manager, Missouri State Public Health Laboratory

Seasonal influenza testing at the Missouri State Public Health Laboratory

 

Bioterrorism

Interviewer: Avi Singh, food lab lead microbiologist, Washington State Public Health Laboratory

Expert: *Denny Russell, bioterrorism coordinator, Washington State Public Health Laboratory

 

Foodborne Outbreak Linked to Flour

Interviewer: *Rebecca Lindsey, Whole Genome Sequence Project lead, National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Experts:

Heather A. Carleton, bioinformatics team lead, National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Samuel J. Crowe, National Outbreak Reporting System team lead, National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

E. coli outbreak linked to flour (CDC)

Shiga Toxin–Producing E. coli Infections Associated with Flour

 

 

 

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Norovirus Illness is Messy – Clean Up Right Away

Hand in pink protective glove wiping tiles with rag in the bathroom.

When norovirus strikes in your own home, you can be prepared by having the supplies you need to immediately clean up after a loved one vomits or has diarrhea.

Norovirus is a tiny germ that spreads quickly and easily. It causes vomiting and diarrhea that come on suddenly. A very small amount of norovirus can make you sick. The number of virus particles that fit on the head of a pin is enough to infect over 1,000 people.

You can get norovirus if poop or vomit from an infected person gets into your mouth. You can get it by:

  • Caring for a person who is infected with norovirus and then touching your hands to your mouth
  • Eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with norovirus
  • Touching surfaces or objects with norovirus on them and then putting your hands in your mouth

Clean up the splatter!

Vomiting and diarrhea are messy, especially with norovirus. If you get sick from norovirus, drops of vomit or poop might splatter for many feet in all directions.

It’s extremely important to clean up the entire area immediately after you or someone else vomits or has diarrhea. You must be very thorough so you don’t miss any drops of vomit or poop that you can’t see.

If you find yourself in this situation, follow these steps from start to finish to protect other people from getting sick with norovirus:

Step 1 – Put on disposable plastic gloves and a face maskNorovirus spreads when a person gets poop or vomit from an infected person in their mouth.

Step 2 – Wipe up vomit and poop with paper towels and throw them away

Step 3 – Clean all surfaces thoroughly with a bleach cleaner, or make your own solution (¾ cup of bleach plus 1 gallon of water)

Step 4 – Clean all surfaces again with hot water and soap

Step 5 – Remove your gloves, throw them away, and take out the trash

Step 6 – Wash all laundry that may have vomit or poop on them with hot water and soap

Step 7 – Wash your hands with soap and water

Thorough clean up helps prevent norovirus outbreaks

Cleaning-up immediately after someone with norovirus vomits or has diarrhea protects others from getting sick, and prevents norovirus outbreaks. It’s important for everyone to know the clean-up steps and other ways to prevent norovirus.

CDC and state and local health departments help to raise awareness among healthcare providers and the general public about norovirus and how to prevent it. Learn more about how health departments, CDC, and other agencies work to prevent and stop norovirus outbreaks.

To learn more about norovirus, see CDC’s norovirus website and infographics, videos, and other resources, and state and local health department websites.

Hurricane preparation and response resource list

Hurricane preparation and response resource list | www.APHLblog.org

Updated September 15, 2017

In the wake of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, public health laboratories in affected regions will be busy testing for potential environmental contamination, monitoring for increased water- and mosquito-borne diseases, or repairing damage to their own facilities. APHL has activated its Incident Command System (ICS) to support member laboratories with their response. The ICS team is participating in CDC’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) State/Local and Partner Conference Calls, and will assist member labs with their response, facilitate communications between CDC and member labs, and share lab needs/stories with policy makers and the public.

Below are helpful resources for those communities hit by the recent storms. Many of these resources are useful for any severe weather event, not just Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Preparing for and weathering the storm

Hurricanes, Preparation and Response, EPA
Hurricane Preparedness Checklist, FDA
Preparing for a Hurricane or Tropical Storm, CDC
Flooding Toolkit, National Public Health Information Coalition
Disaster Assistance.gov, US government platform for locating disaster-related resources
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Toll-free FEMA hotline for survivors of Hurricane Harvey: 1-800-621-FEMA

Keeping your family and community healthy after the storm

Food Safety:
Food Safety Tips for Areas Affected by Hurricane Irma, USDA press release
Protect Food and Water Before, During and After a Storm, FDA

Infectious Diseases:
Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, CDC
Vector-borne Diseases, CDC​​​​​​​
Waterborne Disease Prevention, CDC

Drinking Water:
Drinking Water Safety and Testing Information for Texas, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (accredited labs for microbial testing of drinking water, advice for customers of public water systems, disinfecting your well, etc.)
Drinking Water Testing and Information for Houston, TX, City of Houston
Private Wells: What to Do after the Flood, EPA
Private Wells: Water-related Diseases and Contaminants, CDC
Health Department Laboratory, Drinking Water Testing and Information, City of Houston

Other:
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning – Clinical Guidance, CDC
Mold: Cleanup and Remediation, CDC
Mold: Flood Cleanup, EPA
Waste Management, EPA

Rebuilding and repair

Cleanup after a Hurricane, CDC
Status of Systems in Areas Affected by Harvey, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality – drinking water, waste water and sewage, residential wells, flood waters, water infrastructure

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