Improve Monitoring of Foodborne Illnesses

CANADA - A food scientist with University of Manitoba says the manner in which Canada gathers information related to foodborne illness outbreaks needs to be improved.
calendar icon 13 April 2010
clock icon 3 minute read

The Canadian Institute of Food Science and Technology and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada biennial joint conference "Safe and Healthy Food: Harvesting the Science" is set for May 31st to June 1st in Winnipeg.

Dr Rick Holley, a food safety and food microbiology professor with the University of Manitoba's Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences, says new technologies are beginning to impact specific areas of food processing but there has been little progress in the way in which information about foodborne illness is gathered.

Clip-Dr Rick Holley-University of Manitoba

One of the things that has happened as a result of the listeriosis problem at Maple Leaf in 2008 was the adoption by a number of processed meat manufacturers in Canada, the use of high hydrostatic pressure to eliminate listeria monocytogenes from these packages and it seems to work fairly well.

We're seeing new preservative technologies, recent approval by Health Canada of the use of sodium diacetate in combination with sodium lactate means that listeria monocytogenes won't grow in these products and so reduces by a significant extent the risk associated with this organism in those kinds of products and that is measurable progress.

But, in the larger sense of things, in terms of real progress in the way in which we gather information about foodborne illnesses in Canada no, we haven't made what I would call measurable progress and that's unfortunate.

Dr Holley suggests the manner in which information is gathered concerning the frequency of foodborne illness in Canada needs to change.

He says we don't have the capacity to determine what foods cause more people to become ill and that type of information is key to addressing the problem.

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