FoodNet Canada 2014 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 help us track illnesses and their causes over time.

In the 2014 surveillance year, FoodNet Canada was active in three sites (partially or throughout the entire year) in Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta. In each location, or "sentinel site," enhanced human disease surveillance is performed in parallel with active surveillance for specific bacteria, viruses and parasites in the possible sources to which the ill may have been exposed.

The purpose of this report is to present the preliminary findings from the 2014 surveillance year in the 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.

With the expansion to three sites in 2014, FoodNet Canada is able to provide more valuable information on enteric disease in Canada. This information on enteric disease continues to be essential to the development of robust food and water safety policies in Canada.

  • In 2014, Campylobacter and Salmonella remained the most common causes of human enteric illness in the sentinel sites.
  • Campylobacter was the most prevalent pathogen found on skinless chicken breast in all sites with close to one-half of all samples testing positive. Across all three sites, Salmonella is the most commonly found pathogen in chicken nuggets, with more than one-quarter of all samples testing positive. Salmonella prevalence on skinless chicken breast ranged across the sites from 15% - 26%. In ground beef, VTEC remains at a low prevalence. Pork chops appear to contain the pathogens of interest (Campylobacter, Salmonella, and Listeria monocytogenes) at relatively low levels.
  • Fresh-cut fruit sampling showed that these products are rarely positive for the parasites, viruses and bacteria tested.
  • On farm, Salmonella was commonly found in broiler chickens in all sites. Salmonella was also found in turkey in the BC site, but at a lower prevalence than in the broiler chickens. In turkey in the BC site, Campylobacter was again the most common pathogen found in 2014, as in 2013. Campylobacter was also commonly found in beef and dairy manure samples in the ON site, as in previous years. Campylobacter prevalence in broiler chickens was variable across the sites, ranging from 8.7% - 22%.
  • VTEC was found in about one quarter of irrigation water samples in the BC and AB sites.
  • Results from the 2014 FoodNet Canada sampling year have demonstrated that retail meat products, particularly chicken products, remain an important source of human enteric pathogens. Some of this contamination is likely due to high levels on farm and other points along the farm to store continuum. Fresh-cut fruit does not appear to be an important source of enteric disease for Canadians, while irrigation water has the potential to be a source of VTEC in particular. Continued monitoring of human cases and potential sources in the sentinel sites is important to help further understand enteric disease in Canada and detect emerging trends. This information will help protect Canadians and help to develop future public health policy.

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