FoodNet Canada 2012 Short Report


FoodNet Canada tracks illnesses of the gut, commonly known as food-poisoning, in Canadians and traces them back to their sources, such as food, water and animals. These data are analyzed to help determine which sources are causing the most illness among Canadians and helps us track illnesses and their causes over time.

In the 2012 surveillance year, FoodNet Canada was active in two areas: the Region of Waterloo Public Health, and the Fraser Health Authority of lower mainland British Columbia. In each location, or "sentinel site", enhanced human disease surveillance is performed in parallel with active surveillance of specific bacteria, viruses and parasites and the possible sources to which the ill may have been exposed.

The purpose of this report is to present the preliminary findings from the 2012 surveillance year in both sentinel sites. This report will be followed by a comprehensive annual report which will include more extensive analyses of temporal trends and subtyping information for an integrated perspective on enteric disease from exposure to illness. Following seven years of integrated surveillance, some general trends in exposures and diseases have been observed. These findings provide current information for consideration in the development of food safety policies in Canada.

At the farm level, it is relatively common to find enteric human pathogens in food-producing farm animal manure. For example, Campylobacter has been detected consistently in dairy, beef and swine manure though rarely in broiler chicken manure. Salmonella was commonly detected in broiler chicken farms and on swine manure.

Results also demonstrate that these pathogens, as well as verotoxigenic E. coli, are found in the surface waters (which are untreated) of the Ontario sentinel site, in both urban and rural sections of the watershed, and at local freshwater beaches. Cryptosporidium and Giardia were also found in a number of these areas. These results demonstrate that contact with the environment is a likely exposure route for human cases. However, this exposure route is still secondary to the food-borne route of transmission.

Retail level surveillance results from FoodNet Canada indicate that Salmonella, Campylobacter and Listeria monocytogenes are frequently found on retail chicken breasts and in some cases more frequently on processed poultry products. These could be potential areas of focus for food safety interventions.

Parasitic and viral pathogens were also detected on retail fresh herbs (all positives were imported). Though the viability/infectivity of these pathogens could not be determined with the PCR testing methods used, the test does indicate that viable pathogens could be on these products, suggesting that further monitoring is warranted.

In the human component, FoodNet Canada reports that both Salmonella and Campylobacter infections are consistently the top two bacterial pathogens causing human illness and that their rates of endemic infection remained elevated again in 2012. These results are in-line with the possible exposures observed from retail and environmental sources.

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