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Heightened Focus Needed on Identifying Foods and Pathogens Responsible for Foodborne Illness
Dr. Rick Holley - University of Manitoba

Farmscape for May 24, 2011   (Episode 3584)

A food safety scientist with the University of Manitoba is calling on governments to step up their focus on the identification of the foods and the pathogens that are most frequently responsible for foodborne illness.

With the federal election behind us and the government of the day returned to power with a majority, a five-year 100 million dollar commitment contained in the March 22nd budget to improve food inspection capacity is expected to be honored.

Dr. Rick Holley, a food safety and food microbiology professor with the University of Manitoba, suggests improved information on what is causing foodborne illness will provide a better indication of what to be watching for.

Clip-Dr. Rick Holley-University of Manitoba:
If we were able to better understand what the burden of illness from a particular type of food or a particular type of organism was in Canada then we could better plan to use our limited resources to address those issues first and we just don't know that.

Consequently we're forced to be in a position where we react to a foodborne illness outbreak when it occurs and we attempt to stem the tide but then it's too late and illness and death has already occurred.

What we need to do is put in place a far more rigorous program of active foodborne illness surveillance, as they have in a couple of other countries, that address in a very comprehensive way the number of cases of foodborne illness that occur and what causes it in terms of the bacteria and the food.

When we have that information we can sit down and intelligently plan our attack to reduce the frequencies of illnesses that have the greatest burden in terms of morbidity and mortality in Canada.

Dr. Holley points out we base our policy on foodborne illness outbreaks but outbreaks represent only about 10 percent of foodborne illnesses while sporadic cases account for 90 percent.

He questions, how can you possibly put together a program that effectively addresses the most pressing issues in food safety if you ignore 90 percent of the data?

For Farmscape.Ca, I'm Bruce Cochrane.

       *Farmscape is a presentation of Sask Pork and Manitoba Pork Council

Keywords: food safety
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