The case for comprehensive surveillance

Several international, national and provincial reports point to two key measures to reduce the burden of enteric, or gastrointestinal, disease in Canada: bolstering surveillance capacity and ensuring the effectiveness of food and water safety programs.

FoodNet Canada's (formerly known as C-EnterNet) scientific mandate aligns well with the following recommendations:

  • Reports by the Office of the Auditor General of Canada in 1999, 2002 and 2008 highlight the need to build surveillance capacity, and express particular concern with infectious disease surveillance and outbreak management.
  • Part 2 of the Walkerton Commission of Inquiry 2002 report, A Strategy for Safe Drinking Water, by Justice Dennis O'Connor, calls for a multi-barrier “source to tap” approach to ensuring safe drinking water, as well as improved water protection regulations, training and communication among stakeholders.
  • The 2003 Renewal of Public Health in Canada report by Dr. David Naylor underlines the Office of the Auditor General of Canada's 1999 and 2002 recommendations on building capacity in infectious disease surveillance, and also calls for improved epidemiological training and related capacity in private and public laboratories.
  • The 2004 report of the Meat Regulatory and Inspection Review, Farm to Fork: A Strategy for Meat Safety in Ontario, by Justice Roland J. Haines, calls for food-borne disease surveillance through coordinated investigation of agriculture, retail food and the human population, as integral to our food safety system.
  • The 2009 Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, Fourth Report, recommends that government enhance national food-borne illness surveillance.
  • The 2009 Report of the Independent Investigator into the 2008 Listeriosis Outbreak, Recommendation 22, Chapter 5, calls for improvement of surveillance via federal, provincial and territorial governments’ continued use and support of surveillance and monitoring systems.
  • The Produce Safety Project 2010 report, Building the Science Foundation of a Modern Food Safety System, makes key recommendations for the improvement of the U.S. food safety system, including:
    • the annual publication of a unified cross-agency report on tracking food-borne pathogens in humans, animals, food and feed;
    • revamping farm-to-table surveillance of domestic and imported food by developing a national surveillance plan and expanding collection of data on contamination of foods;
    • increasing capacity for integrated food safety analysis by developing cross-agency strategies for priority setting and attributing the burden of specific foods to overall food-borne illness;
    • improving coordination of food safety research by publishing annually updated lists of prioritized research needs and increasing the role of regulators in research program priorities; ensuring transparency and public participation;
    • improving effectiveness of trace-back and trace-forward data for outbreak response by expanding traceability requirements along food chain; and
    • standardizing record-keeping and creating incentives or requirements for electronic information tracking will further help gather this data.
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