Causes of food-borne illness in Canada
Food-borne bacteria, viruses and parasites cause illnesses in Canada. Learn about these causes of food-borne illness.
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Food-borne illness in Canada
Canada has a very safe food supply. However, food-borne bacteria, parasites and viruses still cause illnesses in Canada.
Every year, about 4 million (1 in 8) Canadians are affected by a food-borne illness. Of these, there are about:
- 11,600 hospitalizations
- 238 deaths
Our estimates on just how much food-borne illnesses affect Canadians show there is still work to be done to:
- prevent and control food-borne illness in Canada
- focus efforts on the bacteria, parasites and viruses that cause the biggest problems
- better understand food-borne illness when there is no known cause
Known and unknown causes of food-borne illness
Food-borne illness (or food poisoning) can be caused by:
- known food-borne bacteria, parasites and viruses (such as Salmonella, Cyclospora or norovirus)
- unknown agents
Known causes of food-borne illness
There are at least 30 bacteria, parasites and viruses known to cause food-borne illness. These are called pathogens. Many of these pathogens are tracked by public health surveillance systems that monitor cases of illness.
Unknown causes of food-borne illness
Agents that have not yet been identified can also cause vomiting and diarrhea (acute gastrointestinal illness).
These agents are grouped into the following 4 categories.
- There is not enough information to develop an estimate of food-borne illness.
- The agents are known but are not recognized as causing food-borne illness.
- There is some uncertainty about the ability of some bacteria, chemicals or other substances found in food to cause illness.
- The agents have not yet been identified.
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