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 2013 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 (BC). 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 2013 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. With eight years of data from two different sentinel sites, FoodNet Canada continues to provide important information on enteric disease in Canada. This information is essential to develop robust food and water safety policies in Canada.
- In general, the incidence rates of reportable enteric diseases have decreased over the past seven years. In 2013, Campylobacter and Salmonella remain the most common causes of human enteric illness in the sentinel sites, and across Canada. Information gained from the exposure surveillance within FoodNet Canada (retail, farm, and water) provide insight into the potential sources and routes of exposure for both of these pathogens.
- Campylobacter, Salmonella, and Listeria monocytogenes continue to be commonly found on skinless chicken breasts sold at retail in both sentinel sites, as well as on processed chicken products such as ground chicken and frozen chicken nuggets. Listeria monocytogenes has also consistently been found on ground beef, although at lower levels than in the retail chicken products.
- Interestingly, all of the parasites and viruses that have been tested for were detected on leafy greens sold at retail in both sentinel sites. This information is shared with food safety partners in industry, Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency in an ongoing effort to inform food safety policy. Because these pathogens were detected by molecular approaches, their ability to cause infection is unknown. Further research in this area would be helpful to estimate the risks to humans.
- At the farm level, Campylobacter remains the most frequently detected pathogen in cattle manure and also appears to be common in turkeys. In broiler chickens, Salmonella is the most commonly detected enteric pathogen.
- Campylobacter, Salmonella, and VTEC continue to be found in untreated surface water in both rural and urban areas, at freshwater beaches, larger and small reaches of the Grand River, and in irrigation canals and ditches in the two watersheds in the BC site.
- Exposure to retail meat products remains a potential source of infection for human enteric illness. Other exposure sources, however, such as the farm environment and water, are also possible. Continued monitoring of human illness and the potential exposures is important to ensure the continued health and safety of Canadians.