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Canada initiates Listeria genome-mapping project to improve food safety

August 3rd, 2012

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), Genome Canada and Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions have partnered for a new genome-mapping project on Listeria so that more rapid tests can be developed.

While the current tests take about five days, the new C$600,000 ($598,886) project aims to improve accuracy and lower the testing time, which will help the CFIA and the industry to successfully detect contaminated foods.

Canada’s Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said the government is committed to further improving the country’s food safety system.

“Through investments in science and innovation, we are giving industry the opportunity to better identify and reduce risks for consumers, meaning safer food for Canadian families,” Ritz added.

For the 18-month research project, Genome Canada and the CFIA are investing C$250,000 ($249,536) each, while Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions is providing the remaining amount.

Genome Canada president and CEO Pierre Meulien said that genomics research will provide a new level of advanced innovation and technology to food safety.

“We expect to provide the means to enable both the food industry and food regulators to respond swiftly to food safety investigations by identifying a potentially dangerous food contaminant as quickly as possible to prevent or limit the impact of an outbreak,” Meulien added.

A Listeria outbreak in 2008, caused by ready-to-eat meat products produced by Maple Leaf Foods, led to 22 deaths in the country, following which the Canadian government rolled out several initiatives to improve food safety.

Listeria poses a serious problem to the food industry as it is considered to be capable of surviving food pasteurisation methods such as freezing, dehydration and exposure to temperature regimes.

Consumption of food contaminated with Listeria can lead to high fever, severe headache, neck stiffness and nausea, and even create serious complications in the elderly, pregnant women and children.

Genome Canada is a not-for-profit organisation that develops and applies genomic sciences, while Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions is a publicly funded corporation that supports research projects designed to help solve industry challenges.

Source: Food Processing Technology

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