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microbial diseases laboratory

Test Order - Food Exam for Bacterial Contamination or Toxins

Pre-Approval Required

Yes. CDPH and public health department submitters should discuss their testing needs with Foodborne & Waterborne Diseases Section management to determine whether service can be offered. A 1 week or more advance lab consultation is requested prior to sample collection, if possible. Samples received without prior authorization will not be tested until such authorization is obtained.

These tests are conducted to assist public health decision-making, epidemiological trace-back, regulatory actions, for reference purposes, and to support the Food Emergency Response Network.

Supplemental Information or Form

If samples are taken to support a regulatory function, then investigators should submit controls for each container type; these typically represent empty, sterile collection containers identical to those used in sampling during the site-visit.  List the controls as part of the sample submission list.

Examples of various controls are:

1.    Sterile Containers - Where sterile containers are used to collect aseptic samples, submit one unopened container, which was sterilized in the same manner as containers used for sampling

2.    Sterile Disposable Gloves - If sterile disposable gloves are used to handle the product, submit one unopened pair of gloves as a control

3.    Sterile Sampling Equipment -Where pre-sterilized sampling tools are used (e.g., spoons, spatulas, etc.), submit at least one unopened sampling tool as a control

4.    Temperature Control - A temperature control sample, labeled TC, should be collected and included in each box of samples to verify the holding temperature.  Alternatively, a temperature recording device may be included in each shipper box

Submission Form

1.    Form "809 Request for Laboratory Services - Food Exam" and/or

2.    A detailed list and description of items collected by the investigation team, i.e.. Environmental Health, Food and Drug, etc

3.    The submittal form(s) should be completed and secured in a water-tight bag and placed outside the secondary containment barrier but within the shipper box.

Performed on Specimens From

Suspected foodborne outbreak; trace-back surveillance; food emergency response network

Acceptable Sample/Specimen Type for Testing

Implicated food and/or food preparation environment. See the “Supplemental Information” section for additional controls that may be collected and submitted as part of an investigation.

Minimum Volume Required

Greater than 25 g of each food item in the original container or a subsample transferred to a sterile container using sterile instruments. Please consult with Foodborne & Waterborne Diseases Section on non-food items, such as swab submission from cutting blades, grinders, drains, etc.

Storage & Preservation of Sample/Specimen Prior to Shipping

Do not refreeze a thawed sample. If frozen at the time of collection, keep frozen during storage. Refrigerated items should be kept at 4-10°C during storage. Shelf-stable items may remain at room temperature during storage; if uncertain, store these at 4-10°C.


Refrigerated and room temperature samples should be transported at 4-10°C with cold packs and frozen samples should be transported with a dry ice coolant. Label or mark the outside box with the storage temperature.

Sample/Specimen Labeling

1.    Submitter identification number that matches to a sample submittal form

2.    Type of sample

3.    Date and time collected

4.    Collection point

Shipping Instructions which Include Specimen Handling Requirements

Follow approved packaging and shipping regulations for biological samples. Please label the outermost container(s) to clearly indicate the storage temperature. Ship to:

CA Department of Public Health
Microbial Diseases Laboratory
Specimen Receiving – Rm B106
Attention:  MDL – Foodborne & Waterborne Diseases Section - food
850 Marina Bay Parkway
Richmond, CA  94804

MDL Points of Contact

MDL - Foodborne & Waterborne Diseases Section (510) 412-3796, Monday-Friday 8 AM to 5 PM PT

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