Ciranna Bird's Writing Portfolio Samples


I am a freelance farm and food safety writer focused on website content, infectious disease prevention and educating the public on the health aspects of meat, dairy, and eggs collected from animals that were raised humanely.
Below are a few portfolio samples of conferences I've covered, foodborne bacteria protocols, website content as well as an opportunity to sign up for the quarterly NC Farm and Food Safety electronic newsletter.

Conference Coverage Articles

Summary of the "Meat Labels that Matter: What Qualifies as Grass Fed..." panel

Winston-Salem, North Carolina
October 29, 2017

Meat Conference attendees Jeff Carolina Meat Conference logo Winston-Salem bus station

This year’s Carolina Meat Conference, was held in Winston-Salem on Monday and Tuesday. The event attracted men and women who raise livestock on pasture, process the animals into cuts of meat, regulate the labeling of meat, distribute, cook, and/or eat local non-conventionally raised meat. NC Choices, an initiative of the Center for Environmental Food Systems, hosts this type of event yearly to advance the local, niche, and pasture-based meat supply chain in North Carolina and other states.

This article will provide a summary of the panel session Meat Labels that Matter: What Qualifies as Grass Fed and More, which was held Monday morning on September 25, 2017 at the Carolina Meat Conference. The content about how to submit proposed meat labels to the federal regulation agency provides timely information to meat processors and meat label applicants. Farmers, and agriculture cooperative extension agents may be interested in the description of the two different Grass Fed certification programs. While the overview of U.S. food sales trends appeals to a wide audience including managers of local food hubs, and regional culinary guilds.

panel speakers

The panel speakers are listed in alphabetic order:


U.S. Food Sale Trends

As the NC Farm Bureau Federation Director of Specialty Crops, Debbie Hamrick gave the audience an overview of food consumption trends.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that local food sales have doubled from 2008 to 2014 [1]. Although local food sales have risen to $11.7 billion, it still is less than 1 percent of the total agricultural market.

Sales of plant-based meat substitutes and plant-based dairy alternatives are competing with animal meats and dairy. In the future, insects might be used as an ingredient due to their high protein content, and alternative meat may be created in the laboratory via animal cell culturing.

Online grocery retail is a growing option for people to shop for their food, especially among individuals categorized to belong to the millennial generation.

Debbie Hamrick

Debbie Hamrick told the audience that “It’s up to your ability to be profitable for local food to stick around, and for viable farm land to be preserved.” She encouraged her listeners to find a way to capture the food dollar that doesn’t tear down ‘big agriculture’. “We need Big Ag for you to be special.”


How to submit a proposed meat label for review and approval by the federal regulating agency.

Labels are attached to meat packages at the processing plant. The approval for the meat product labels is either processed through a state agency or the federal agency depending on the inspection status of the processing plant.

Jeff Canavan, the Deputy Director of the Labeling and Program Delivery Staff (LPDS) at the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Services (FSIS), provided the audience guidelines on the federal process for obtaining approval of meat product labels that are in compliance with the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) 21 U.S.C. § 601, 607.

Jeff Canavan

Animal raising claims are evaluated by FSIS Labeling and Program Delivery Staff to ensure they are in compliance with 9 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 412.1. Examples of animal raising claims are 'Grass fed', 'Animal Welfare Approved by AGW', 'raised without antibiotics', and 'free-Range'.

To submit a meat label with a special statement or claim to the federal LPDS regulation agency provide them the following:

  1. a completed FSIS Form 7234-1: Application for Approval of Labels, Marking or Device
  2. a sketch or hand-printed version of the label and
  3. documentation to support the claims

These components can be mailed or submitted by logging into the Label Submission and Approval System web-based software, using your USDA Level 2 e-Authentication account.

The generic labels final rule, which became effective in January 6, 2014, has streamlined the process for making subsequent changes to the preapproved label. If the proposed changes on the label do not affect the special statement or claim then the changes can be made without re-applying to LPDS. Meat label with animal raising claims Examples include changing the cut of meat from tenderloin to flat iron, or making modifications to the safe handling instructions.

Jeff Canavan’s advice for the audience was to plan as much time as possible for the labeling claim application process. FSIS is trying to catch up and reduce their back log of applications, however please anticipate your needs in advance.


Provide the following documentation to support a Grass Fed claim for a federally approved meat label

According to the USDA FSIS LPDS, meat labeled with an animal raising claim 'Grass Fed' indicates that it came from an animal that had continuous access to pasture during the growing seasons and that it was only fed grass (forage) after it was weaned from their mother’s milk.

The 2016 Labeling Guideline on Documentation Needed to Substantiate Animal Raising Claims for Label Submissions indicates that USDA FSIS requires the following documentation to review and approve a Grass Fed claim [2]:

  1. An affidavit describing the diet of the animals
  2. A written description of the controls used for ensuring that the cattle, bison, or sheep were only fed grass (forage); AND that they had continuous access to pasture during the growing season until slaughter
  3. An explanation of how non-conforming animals (animals that had been fed grain or grain byproducts) are identified and kept separate from the 100% grass fed animals
  4. A written description of the product tracing and segregation mechanisms used during slaughter, processing, packaging, and distribution.

100% Grass Fed Program for SVS Producers offered by USDA AMS

Steve Ross, the USDA Senior Agriculture Marketing Specialist in the AMS Audit Services, discussed the certificate entitled “Small and Very Small Producers (SVP) enrolled in the USDA Grass (Forage) Fed Claim for ruminant livestock…” certificate. Livestock operations who market less than forty-nine cattle/bison per year, or market less than ninety-nine sheep per year, are categorized as small and very small producers.

Steve Ross

To apply for this two-year certification, the livestock producer completes and submits the QAD 1020C -Application USDA Grass Fed Program for cattle and bison, or the QAD 1020S-Application USDA Grass Fed Program for sheep. Upon receipt of the forms, USDA AMS staff will contact the farm to conduct an interview by phone. A site visit may or may not occur.

Benefits of belonging to the Grass fed SVS producer program include:

Currently there are fifty-three beef livestock operations and four sheep livestock operations in this program [3][4]. Note: The claim “USDA Grass Fed” can only be used if both the livestock operation and the processing facility are USDA grass fed certified.

Steve Ross encourages farmers to take advantage of the animal raising claims opportunities. He highlighted the USDA AMS National Monthly Grass Fed Beef report, which shows the financial value-added gains SVS producers in the Grass Fed program receive.


Certified Grass Fed by A Greener World

Emily Moose, the Director of Communications and Outreach for A Greener World (AGW), spoke about the Certified Grass Fed by AGW program. AGW supports independent family farmers by establishing and promoting farm certification programs. They are a third-party certifier with no ties to the farms or processors they audit. In addition, they themselves are accredited and certified by an independent agency, the International Organization for Standardization.

Emily Moose

Independent family farms that own and raise cows, goats, cattle, lamb, and sheep for the production of meat and dairy are eligible for the Certified Grass Fed by AGW program, if they do the following:

Family farms can apply for this yearly certification program by completing and submitting the Farmer Application Form. To be part of this program, farms must agree to receive a yearly visit from AGW staff. During this visit, the auditors will have a chance to observe the animals in different phases of their life, as well as verify compliance with the standards throughout the seasons.

The 'Animal Welfare Approved by AGW' claim adds value and assures customers of high-welfare farming practices. This animal raising claim has been rated as 'highly meaningful' by the Food Safety and Sustainability Center at Consumer Reports [5].

Additional benefits of being certified as ‘Grass Fed by AGW’ are as follows:

Emily Moose’s advice for the audience was to pool together “pasture-based” farms all under the same AWA certification.


panel speakers

The Meat Labels that Matter: What Qualifies as Grass Fed and More panel concluded with ample opportunity for the audience to ask questions. The presenters shared the following resources for men and women who raise their livestock on pasture. These guides and websites can also benefit meat eaters who use animal-raising claims to make informed purchasing decisions.

RESOURCES

A Greener World. Food Labels Exposed: A definitive guide to common food label terms and claims. https://agreenerworld.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/AGW-Food-Labels-Exposed-2017-EMAIL-SCREEN-8-31-2017.pdf Published August 31, 2017.

A Greener World and Duchy College, a rural business school. Farm Health Online Website. http://www.farmhealthonline.com/US/

USDA AMS. National Monthly Grass Fed Beef Report. Livestock, Poultry & Grain Market News website. http://www.ams.usda.gov/LPSMarketNewsPage

References

[1] Aubrey, Allison. Communities Get A Lift As Local Food Sales Surge To $11 Billion A Year. NPR The Salt – Food for Thought. June 30, 2015 http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/06/30/418835394/communities-get-a-lift-as-local-food-sales-surge-to-11-billion-a-year

[2] USDA FSIS. Labeling Guideline on Documentation Needed to Substantiate Animal Raising Claims for Label Submissions. https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/6fe3cd56-6809-4239-b7a2-bccb82a30588/RaisingClaims.pdf?MOD=AJPERES Published September 2016.

[3] Official Listing of Operations Included on the USDA SVS Grass Fed Beef Program Operation Marketing Claim Products. https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/LSOfficialListingBeefGrassFedProgram.pdf Last Revised August 21, 2017.

[4] Official Listing of Operations Included on the USDA SVS Grass Fed Sheep Program Operation Marketing Claim Products. https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/LSOfficialListingGrassFedSheepProgram.pdf Last Revised March 9, 2017.

[5] Consumer Reports: Animal Welfare Approved-Highly Meaningful. CR Consumer Reports | Greener Choices. 2006-2017. http://greenerchoices.org/2016/11/16/awa-label-review Accessed October 24, 2017.

[6] Shop Your Way to A Greener World (AGW) Product Search. A Greener World. https://agreenerworld.org/product-search/ Accessed October 24, 2017.


The Medical Writer's Role in Helping Patients make Health Care Decisions

AMWA Medical Writing & Communication Conference
Denver, Colorado
October 7, 2016

I was chosen as a conference reporter for the 2016 Medical Writing & Communication Conference to cover the open session "The Medical Writer's Role in Helping Patients Make Health Care Decisions." I conducted a follow-up interview with the presenter, Kathi Whitman, MA who is a Project Manager at Intermountain Healthcare. My article was published in the AMWA Journal/V31 N4/2016 on page 164 and is also available online for AMWA members.



Highlights of the 2016 Carolina Food Summit

Rock Quarry Farm, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
September 29, 2016

In September, I attended the Carolina Food Summit: Plates, Policy, and Place. My blog article covers the Conversation Sparks: Hunger, Change, Flavor, Policy, and Sustainability panel and is available at my www.cirannabird.com/NC-foodblog.html page.

Highlights of the 2016 Piedmont Grown Annual Conference

Raleigh, North Carolina
March 10, 2016

In March, I attended the Piedmont Grown Annual Conference. My blog article shares the pieces of wisdom provided by the keynote speaker and provides an overview of the intermediate food buyers First Hands Food, Farmer Foodshare and the Sandhills Farm to Table Cooperative. The full-length article is available at my www.cirannabird.com/NC-foodblog.html page.

The Launch of the Durham Farm and Food Network

Durham, North Carolina
January 8, 2016

January 8th I attended the Launch of the Durham Farm and Food (DFF) Network. My blog article shares the excitement of learning how this new food council will promote healthy communities, environmental stewardship and economic development in Durham County. The full-length article is available at my www.cirannabird.com/NC-foodblog.html page.

The NC Choices Carolina Meat Conference and Small-scale Meat Production

Winston-Salem, North Carolina
October 12, 2015

In October 2015 I attended the two-day NC Choices Carolina Meat Conference. My blog article covers the following panel presentations: What’s the Buzz? Examining the Controversy over Production Practices; Inspected and Exempt Poultry: Options and Obstacles; Heritage Breeds and Pasture-Based Pork Carcass Quality: Research and Field Update. The full-length article is available at my www.cirannabird.com/NC-foodblog.html page.

Generate YouTube Videos: Propel Your ... Business and Be of Service

AMWA-DVC 13th Annual Freelance Conference
King of Prussia, Philadelphia
March 28, 2015

I was a conference reporter at the American Medical Writers Association Annual Freelance Conference. After attending the "The New Social Media: Using YouTube to Run Your Entire Social Media & Brand in 4 Hours a Week" presentation, I interviewed attendees and conducted a follow-up interview with the presenter, Mary Agnes Antonopoulos. My article "Generate YouTube Videos Propel Your Freelance Medical Writing Business and Be of Service:" was published in the Delawriter Spring 2015 newsletter.



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Foodborne bacteria

Raw Egg Quiz self-scoring answer key

Author:Ciranna Bird
raw egg in frying pan

Question 1-2: Intentionally eating raw cake batter or raw homemade cookie dough
If you answered “yes” to question 1 or question 2 … you are willfully eating raw eggs and raw flour.


Question 3-5: Runny egg yolks, unpasteurized egg drinks, mayonnaise, etc.
If you answered “yes” or “I don’t know” to questions 3, 4, or 5… you are eating raw eggs whether or not you intend to. If you are unlucky, one of these raw eggs may contain the bacteria Salmonella. Explore the symptoms of a Salmonella infection.


Question 6-8: The habits of the people cooking and preparing your food.
If you answered “no” or “I don’t know” to questions 6, 7, or 8 … your food most likely is being prepared unsafely. You may be eating raw eggs without your knowledge. If you are unlucky, one of these raw eggs may contain the bacteria Salmonella. Explore the symptoms of a Salmonella infection.


Salmonella infection symptoms

People more likely to get a severe case of Salmonella infection include: adults older than 60 years of age, children who are 5 years old and younger, and people with weakened immune systems due to organ transplants, cancer, diabetes, or HIV/AIDS.


These are the symptoms of a shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) infection.

Children younger than 5 years of age and adults older than 60 years of age are more likely than others to develop serious illness and life-threatening complications from a STEC infection.


Return to the Raw Egg Quiz


References:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014, October 16). Braenderup Infections Linked to Nut Butter. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/braenderup-08-14/signs-symptoms.html
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016, August 25). Salmonella. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/general/index.html
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017, May 5). Shiga Toxin-Producing E. coli & Food Safety. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/features/ecoliinfection/index.html
Medscape. (2012, Dec 17). Suspecting Foodborne Illnesses in Special Populations: Quick Facts for Providers. Retrieved from http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/775976?src=par_cdc_stm_mscpedt&faf=1
U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2016, July 6). Raw Dough's a Raw Deal and Could Make You Sick. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm508450.htm

Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) - Example 1

SOP EN.003 version 2
Effective Date: 11/29/2012
Author: Ciranna Bird

Purpose: Instructs laboratory analysts on how to isolate Shigella bacterium from clinical samples

Employer: MA Department of Public Health

My role:

This standard operating procedure (SOP) excerpt is part of a public record reproduced with permission from the Department of Public Health. The SOP is subject to copyright held by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Content is for informational purposes only.

Introduction & Clinical Significance

State and federal public health officials rely on the MDPH State Laboratory Institute (SLI) Enteric Laboratory to confirm the presence and characterize Shigella isolated from clinical samples. In addition to providing a brief background on the pathogenesis and transmission of Shigella, this section will highlight the Enteric laboratory's role in data surveillance and outbreak detection.

People infected with Shigella may or may not be asymptomatic. Symptoms include bloody diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps, usually within 24 - 48 hours after exposure to the bacteria. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, Shigella are present in the diarrheal stools of infected persons while they are sick and for up to a week or two afterwards. (CDC, shigellosis)

Shigella has a low infectious dose; according to a dose-response study an exposure of 0.07-0.01 organisms for 1-day of exposure can cause infection (Crockett, 1996). Although infection can be caused by ingestion of contaminated food or exposure to contaminated water, most transmission is person-to-person. According to the CDC, "most Shigella infections are the result of the bacterium passing from stools or soiled fingers of one person to the mouth of another person. …This happens when basic hygiene and handwashing habits are inadequate …and is particularly likely to occur among toddlers who are not fully toilet-trained.” (CDC, shigellosis)

During food-borne outbreaks, the SLI Enteric Laboratory receives original stool specimens from food-handlers, child-care workers and/or possible contacts of known cases of shigellosis. If Shigella is isolated from these clinical samples, then the food handlers and/or child-care workers are prevented from returning to work until they have cleared their infection. The detection of Shigella by SLI laboratory analysts helps public health officials – local boards of public health, food protection personnel and epidemiologists – break the transmission of Shigella.

There are four subgroups of Shigella, which are historically treated as species. Subgroup A is referred to as S. dysenteriae; subgroup B as S. flexneri; subgroup C as S. boydii, and subgroup D as S. sonnei. Shigella dysyenteriae produces Shiga toxin and causes a severe form of illness. Analysts in the SLI Enteric Laboratory use biochemical characteristics and antisera agglutinations to distinguish between the 43 Shigella serotypes.

When a hospital or private clinical laboratory located in Massachusetts detects Shigella from a patient sample, they are mandated by law to notify the Department of Public Health and submit the isolate for further testing. (CMR, Section 300.000) Upon analysis of the isolates, the SLI Enteric laboratory reports the Shigella species and serotype to CDC as part of the national passive surveillance of laboratory-confirmed human Shigella infections.

. . .


Procedures – References

Crockett CS, Haas CN, Fazil A, et al: Prevalence of shigellosis in the U.S.: Consistency with dose-response information. Int J Food Microbiol 30:87, 1996.

CDC. Shigellosis. http://www.cdc.gov/nczved/divisions/dfbmd/diseases/shigellosis/

The Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 111, sections 3, 6, 7, 109, 110, 111 and 112 and Chapter 111D, Section 6 are implemented by regulation under Chapter 105, Code of Massachusetts Regulations (CMR), Section 300.000: Reportable Diseases, Surveillance, and Isolation & Quarantine Requirements.


Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) - Example 2

SOP EN.018 version 1
Effective Date: 2010
Author: Enteric Laboratory

Purpose: Educates laboratory analysts on the proper procedure for sending verotoxigenic E.coli, Shigella, Camplobacter, and Salmonella typhi to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Employer: MA Department of Public Health

My role:

This standard operating procedure (SOP) excerpt is part of a public record reproduced with permission from the Department of Public Health. The SOP is subject to copyright held by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Content is for informational purposes only.

Background, Introduction

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, GA serves as the reference lab for the Hinton State Lab (HSLI). They are a CLIA certified facility (CLIA Identification number 11D0668319). Any isolate or human specimen submitted to the HSLI that cannot be definitely identified as an enteric pathogen in accordance with the SOP for that pathogen is sent to CDC for confirmation and/or additional testing. Additionally, some isolates are requested by CDC for additional testing such as antimicrobial susceptibility or MLVA when they are unique or part of an outbreak.

Objective, Purpose

The purpose of this document is to describe the steps taken when submitting an isolate to the CDC for identification or for confirmation, or when requested by CDC for additional testing such as antimicrobial susceptibility or MLVA.

Scope

This document applies to all members of the Foodborne Disease Surveillance Laboratories Enteric Unit and Molecular Subtyping Unit who are responsible for submitting isolates to the CDC for additional testing.

Only staff who have been certified in packaging and shipping can prepare the package for shipping. This is a certification that is renewed every 2 years.


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Safety documents

Compliance Checklist

Description: Two-sided packaging checklist

Purpose: Prevented thousand dollars of fines. Ensured safety of laboratory analysts, and employees of UPS®, FedEx®, and the United States Postal Service (USPS) during the transport of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, E. coli O157, and the pandemic A (H1N1)2009 influenza virus.

Employer: MA Department of Public Health

My role:

Checklist thumbnail Select picture to see full-size image.


Download the checklist (PDF, 2.3MB).


Triage and Test Prioritization of Suspicious Environmental Specimens

Description: Guidance document: Instructs fire chiefs, police officers and Hazardous Material responders how to collect, notify, and transport items suspected of being a biological or chemical threat

Employer: MA Department of Public Health

My role: My edits increased clarity.

Download the original document (PDF) which has 12 editing comments.


Download the edited document (PDF). My edits and changes to the format have increased legibility and clarity.


Communication Flowchart

Purpose: Outlines laboratory communication during a bioterrorism event

Employer: MA Department of Public Health

My role:

Flowchart thumbnail Select picture to see full-size image.



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Website Content

Website Audit and Content Restructure

Description: Revised the content and structure of the AMWA Carolinas Chapter Website

Organization: AMWA Carolinas Chapter

My role as a volunteer included the following activities:

Before Edits

Oct 2014 view Join Us AMWA Carolinas web page Sept 2015 Join Us AMWA Carolinas web pageAfter Edits


Website Content - Example 1

Description: Revise the historical content on the national American Medical Writers Association website

Purpose: To celebrate the 75th anniversary of AMWA.

My role as a volunteer included the following activities:

History of AMWA web page, February 2015

Before Edits
View the current History of AMWA web page April 2015 view of History of AMWA web page



Website Content - Example 2

Description: The geographical spread of AMWA Chapters from 1956-1985

Purpose: To create historical content for AMWA's 75th anniversary

My role as a volunteer included the following activites:

AMWA chapter spread thumbnail Select picture to view the presentation on the AMWA website at http://www.amwa.org/history_of_amwa.

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