Canada releases FoodNet 2012 data: Does Campylobacter in BC deserve a super frowny face?

I’m currently at the Conference for Food Protection biannual meeting in Orlando viewing and slightly participating in the world of changing retail food safety rules. It’s fascinating to see the sausage making up close. While representatives from industry, regulators, consumer advocacy groups and academia discuss stuff like handwashing, drying and water temperatures, the Public Health Agency of Canada released it’s 2012 FoodNet Data.b5bfa0c4b2e8670d09222c17856abef4

A quick look through the data makes me think that something is going on in Canada when it comes to Campylobacter. Earlier this year CDC released their 2012 food safety progress report and a 14 per cent increase in reported Campylobacter illnesses (to a rate of 14 cases/100,000) garnered a frowny face.

The FoodNet Canada data released today shows that Canada’s 2011 national estimate of campylobacteriosis was about double the rate of the U.S. at 27 cases/100,000.


The new FoodNet Canada data shows a campylobacteriosis rate at a British Columbia sentinel site as 39/100,000. Triple the rate in the U.S.

Double wow.

Something must be up – whether it’s a much higher rate of contamination on food (which is primarily poultry) or the practices throughout the farm-to-fork chain.

FoodNet Canada’s primary objectives are to: detect changes in trends in human enteric disease and levels of pathogen exposure from food, animal and water sources in a defined population, strengthen source attribution efforts in Canada by determining significant exposure factors for enteric illness, and assess the effectiveness of food safety programs and targeted interventions.

FoodNet Canada currently has two sentinel sites in operation: the Region of Waterloo Public Health in Ontario since 2005, and the Fraser Health Authority of lower mainland British Columbia since 2010. In each sentinel site, enhanced human disease surveillance is performed in parallel with active surveillance of enteric pathogens in various exposure sources.

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.

In 2012, campylobacteriosis, salmonellosis and giardiasis were the most commonly reported enteric diseases in FoodNet Canada’s sentinel sites. Overall, the total number of endemic enteric cases reported in the ON and BC sites in 2012 was lower than that reported in 2011. The incidence rate of sporadic, endemic cryptosporidiosis decreased in the ON site from 2011 to 2012. The incidence rate of total salmonellosis cases decreased in the BC site from 2011 to 2012, due to fewer reported outbreak and endemic cases (travel cases did not have an impact).

Travel continues to be an important factor in the burden of enteric disease. In 2012, over 30% of all cases of enteric disease were associated with travel outside of Canada, in both the ON and BC sites.

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About Ben Chapman

Dr. Ben Chapman is a professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University. As a teenager, a Saturday afternoon viewing of the classic cable movie, Outbreak, sparked his interest in pathogens and public health. With the goal of less foodborne illness, his group designs, implements, and evaluates food safety strategies, messages, and media from farm-to-fork. Through reality-based research, Chapman investigates behaviors and creates interventions aimed at amateur and professional food handlers, managers, and organizational decision-makers; the gate keepers of safe food. Ben co-hosts a biweekly podcast called Food Safety Talk and tries to further engage folks online through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and, maybe not surprisingly, Pinterest. Follow on Twitter @benjaminchapman.