Food and Environmental Virology Network

Contact Information
Bureau of Microbial Hazards, Health Canada

Research Activity

With an increase in the prominence and importance of foodborne viruses in recent years, there was a need to develop a specific medium through which important research issues related to these viruses could be identified, discussed and addressed.

The Food & Environmental Virology Network (FEVN) was launched in June 2003 to provide a platform through which information related to food and environmental viruses could be shared and exchanged. The network could also contribute towards organizing workshops, training sessions, meetings and working groups to facilitate collaborative research on viruses associated with foodborne outbreaks. Although the formation of FEVN was initiated by representatives from the Canadian Federal Government (Health Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency), as well as representatives from Canadian Universities, membership is open to professionals, nationally and internationally, working on or interested in food or environmental virology. FEVN has it own terms of reference, a board of directors and a two-year term President.

FEVN seeks to link with other parties of similar interest and direction, both nationally and internationally, and represents Canada as a member country in the European Network for Environmental and Food Virology (COST 929).

Overall, FEVN aims to provide a platform for open scientific communication and discussion on food and environmental virology and to foster linkages and exchange of data and initiate collaboration among FEVN members.

Current Activity

  1. Methods development, harmonization, validation and standardization,
  2. Survival and inactivation of viruses in foods and in the environment,
  3. Development of appropriate intervention strategies to control virus contamination of food and transmission along the food chain, and
  4. Development of guidelines and set standards for the food continuum.

How to Join FEVN

Membership is open to members of government, academia and industry, nationally or internationally, who have worked on or interested in food and environmental virology.

Responsibilities of FEVN Members:

  • Participate in establishing and achieving Network objectives,
  • Contribute to discussions and activities related to the Network,
  • Serve as a liaison between the Network and their organization,
  • Identify issues and contribute to agendas for meetings, and
  • Participate with a spirit of cooperation.

To apply for membership, please mail or e-mail the following information to the address below:

  • Your name, title and organization,
  • Your complete contact information,
  • A description of your involvement in food or environmental virology (1-2 paragraphs maximum, plus any web link(s)), and
  • 4-5 keywords.

Applications are reviewed and approved by the board of directors (if you are going to have the membership approved by the Board of Directors - you should complete that section in the Terms of Reference). You will be informed of your membership status in a timely manner.

Membership applications and inquiries may be sent to:

Food and Environmental Virology Network
Health Canada, Food Directorate
Bureau of Microbial Hazards
Microbiology Research Division, Rm E405
Banting Research Centre, Postal Locator 2204E
251 Sir Frederick Banting Driveway
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
K1A 0K9

Facsimile: (+1) 613 941-0280

Research Interests and Activities of FEVN Members

FEVN's Research interests focus on the following aspects:

  1. Method development,
  2. Food and environmental contamination issues,
  3. Data analysis and risk assessment,
  4. Emerging viruses, and
  5. Virus transmission, survival and inactivation.


Health Canada (HC)

The Food Virology Research Laboratory is housed in the Bureau of Microbial Hazards, Food Directorate. This laboratory has projects to characterize the stability and inactivation profiles of foodborne viruses, to develop advanced detection and genotyping methods for foodborne viruses and to investigate animal and environmental transmission routes for foodborne viruses.

The laboratory works with the Evaluation Division of the Bureau of Microbial Hazards and provides ongoing support for policy and regulatory activities.

Agriculture and Agri-food Canada (AAFC)

AAFC's Food Virology Research Laboratories are housed in the Food Development and Research Centre (St. Hyacinthe, Quebec) and Lacombe Research Centre (Lacombe, Alberta).

The main goals of AAFC's laboratories are the determination of the origin and the fate of threatening foodborne and emerging viruses in food production systems and food products and the elaboration of mitigation processes and strategies through the food continuum. In pursuing these goals, AAFC's laboratories are currently involved with their partners in research projects to develop, refine, optimize and/or evaluate novel or existing:

  1. molecular detection, quantification, identification and characterization assays of human threatening food-borne and emerging viruses;
  2. methods to extract/concentrate low number of these viruses in food production systems and food products; and
  3. viral indicators and surrogates in food production systems and food products.

Drs. Alain Houde, Julie Brassard and Tineke Jones are the scientists responsible for this program. Contact: Dr. Alain Houde at:

Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA)

The Food Virology Centre of Expertise (FVCE) of the CFIA located in St-Hyacinthe, Quebec, and is under the management of Dr. Carole Simard ( This biosafety level-2+ laboratory based on an ISO 17025 Quality Assurance (QA) program involves Research & Development (R&D), Optimisation, Validation & Technology Transfer (OVTT) and offers Integrated Diagnostic Services (IDS).

Activities include:

  • development of methods and processes for the concentration, purification, detection, quantification and characterization of foodborne, emerging and zoonotic viruses;
  • study of viral pathogenesis, viral resistance and persistence in the environment using animal models, cell culture and bioassays;
  • research on viral indicators to assess food and water safety; and evaluation of prevention approaches;
  • statistical and bioinformatic analyses are conducted; and
  • automatisation of techniques through robotics, traceability and laboratory sample tracking system, as well as standard operating protocols and proficiency testing are implemented for better service delivery.

The Centre also provides scientific advice and seeks collaborations at National and International levels

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC)

The Public Health Agency of Canada provides reference diagnostics testing for the detection, identification and molecular typing of gastroenteritis virus (including norovirus) infection in human specimens within Canada, as part of outbreak investigations and for any laboratories that request assistance. They are involved in proficiency testing and the evaluation of molecular typing and detection methods, with the aim of standardizing these methods nationally and internationally. In addition, the Enterovirus section carries out testing and typing of enteroviruses (echo, coxsackie, polio viruses) and hepatitis A viruses. In addition, the Viral Disease Division carries out surveillance of noroviruses utilizing molecular typing of human specimens to understand the epidemiology of norovirus infection and to assist outbreak control by identifying the sources of outbreaks and links between cases. Contact: Dr. Tim Booth at:

Centre of Research for Environmental Microbiology (CREM)

Contrary to popular belief, many disease-causing viruses, bacteria, fungi and protozoa can remain infectious in the environment for days to months. Many 'opportunistic' pathogens can actually thrive outside the host. Paradoxically, many aspects of modern life increase our exposure and susceptibility to pathogens in water, food, air and on environmental surfaces. This, together with rampant drug-resistance, has revived interest in the prevention and control of infections. CREM's research thus focuses on the behaviour and interruption of environmental pathogens to protect public health. CREM is under the direction of Dr. Syed A. Sattar of the University of Ottawa. Contact: Dr. Syed A. Sattar at: Centre for Research on Environmental Microbiology

Collaborative Activities:

  1. Microbiological Methods Committee's Technical Working Group on Virology

    The Microbiological Methods Committee's Technical Working Group on Virology reviews virological detection methods submitted for publication in the Health Canada Compendium of Analytical Methods. This group has established a framework for the evaluation and validation of viral detection methods and ensures that all viral methods in the Compendium consistently meet these guidelines.
  2. Food Virology Reference Centre for Canada (FVRC)

    The Virology Reference Centre, which is a joint laboratory reference centre between Health Canada (HC) and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), is a resource available to Canadian labs testing clinical, environmental or food samples for foodborne viruses.

    Depending on the needs of the lab, the Centre:

    1. provides protocols and advice for sample testing,
    2. sequences viruses isolated from samples and provide sequence information,
    3. tests samples for enteric viruses and provide sequence information for viruses detected, or
    4. is a collaborative partner for validating and developing methodology.
    The Food Virology Reference Centre also administers ViroNet Canada, which is an online database supported by the Canadian Public Health Laboratory Network, to house information from outbreaks of enteric viral disease in Canada. The database is set to include a publicly searchable set of sequences that represent type strains from viruses isolated across Canada.

Other Related Links

  1. Norovirus
  2. Norovirus
  3. Hepatitis A and E virus
  4. Hepatitis A
  5. Hepatitis E
  6. Compendium volume 5

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