By Steven Mandernach

The Association of Food Officials (AFDO) retail industry partners are invited to participate in the Environmental Sampling Workshop training course at the 2022 Food Safety Summit.

The course is designed to teach environmental sampling approaches in retail food establishments for outbreak investigations including hands-on practical exercises. Sampling helps tell the story of how pathogens travel from their source through the environment to affect the host. It helps discover the pathway of disease and ultimately advances prevention.

This workshop will also aid retail industry participants in better understanding how state and local agencies conduct outbreak investigations, including sampling. 

Participants will earn six CEUs for this workshop. Class size is limited in the number of students that can participate to provide the best learning experience.       

What can participants expect in this Environmental Sampling Workshop? 

Each participant will expand their professional knowledge using real world examples and hands-on activities. Let’s explore these areas in greater detail: 

  1. Professional Development

Be the best professional you can be by learning  how to conduct environmental sampling in retail Food during outbreak investigations. As professionals, you need knowledge to successfully perform an outbreak investigation. A proper investigation should stop an outbreak from continuing, assess contributing factors, and implicate the correct food and/or facility.

  1. Real World Examples 

This workshop is full of real-life outbreaks stories. Participants will actively review outbreaks in various venues including a restaurant, casino, sports bar and nursing facility. They will determine if environmental sampling is warranted, assess the outbreak based on information given, and determine the causative agent. 

  1. Hands-on Activities

These activities focus on types of samples, types of sampling i.e. routine vs. targeted, factors to consider when conducting environmental sampling, the use of sterile gloves, and various swabs and sponges. Participants will have the opportunity to take samples on real equipment.

Environmental Sampling Key Concepts Overview
In this action-packed training session, participants will be exposed to the various types of samples and steps used in conducting environmental sampling.  The program will consider planning and preparation and the importance of coordinating the team’s activities and objectives.

Participants will examine  communication strategies and understand why determining the knowledgeable contacts for an establishment’s management are essential. For example, the staff most familiar with the investigation will organize the timeline for sample arrival, estimate the number and type of samples to be collected, and determine the type of testing to be requested. 

During the program, participants will identify the areas that are the most likely sources of contamination.  The “Zone Concept” will be explained and demonstrated while participants practice their new skills while subject matter experts and trainers provide real-time follow-up and feedback. Exercises explore verification and delivery of samples along with remediation strategies.

Tools participants will add to their professional toolbox include controls, shipping or drop-off procedures, and the legal aspects of conducting environmental sampling with emphasis on the chain-of-custody. In a mock outbreak investigation, participants will fill out laboratory chain-of-custody forms, take samples on real equipment, and submit samples to the mock laboratory. 

This workshop is filled with best practices such as tips on taking photographs, good practices for sampling documentation, effective practices for sampling, and personal protection best practices when conducting sampling. 

The course is scheduled for May 9 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. CDT during the Food Safety Summit at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, IL.

About the author: Steven Mandernach is the executive director for the Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO). He has served as the chair for the Manufactured Food Regulatory Program Alliance. Mandernach has a Juris Doctorate from Drake University Law School. He is currently pursuing a master’s of science in food safety from Michigan State University.

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