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State of Alaska > DEC > EH > Laboratory Services > Lab Sample Submission Manual > Food Outbreak/Poisoning  

Lab Sample Submission Manual:
Food Outbreak/Poisoning
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Looking for Salmonella in Food

Outbreak Investigation Guidelines

Step 1: Receive notification by ADEC Food Safety and Sanitation of a food borne outbreak.

Step 2: Notify EHL of any planned or pending sample shipments. Call our Sample Receiving department at 907-375-8231, or email us at

Step 3: Collect and preserve samples according to EHL guidelines and document using the Food Sample Collection Report Form .

Step 4: DHSS Epidemiologists and/or ADEC Environmental Health Officers will request specific tests to be performed on specific food products, based on patient symptoms and illnesses as well as testing results from patient specimens. Ship samples to EHL via overnight mail, FedEx, or Goldstreak.

Step 5: The Environmental Health Laboratory will perform specific screening procedures to confirm patient test results and determine which food product was the cause of the outbreak. For example, DHSS Public Health Laboratory detects Salmonella in the stool of a patient with food poisoning symptoms. The Environmental Health Laboratory will then perform RT-rtPCR testing on each of the food products collected and submitted for testing. EHL will not perform “shot-gun” testing and test all food products for all tests or a panel of multiple tests. It is critical for efficient time and reagent usage to limit the amount of testing to those contaminants found to be present in patient samples.

Step 6 : It is the responsibility of ADEC to determine the source of contamination and remove or limit its spread; it should not be the role of ADEC to diagnose the cause of an illness.

List of Available Screening Tests for Food Bourne Outbreaks

EHL has validated the following RT-rtPCR screening tests for food borne outbreaks:

  • E.Coli
  • E.Coli (O:157)
  • Salmonella.spp
  • Shigella
  • Campylobacter
  • Vibrio
  • Norovirus
  • Listeria
  • Staphylococcus

Forms needed for sample shipment to EHL are found here.

For more information or questions, call our Sample Receiving department at 907-375-8231, or email us at and our friendly staff will help.

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