Forward thinking is required to enable leaders to make informed decisions and plan for the future.
Governments, industry, and policy makers around the globe are increasingly working together to anticipate future challenges to the world's food supply and plant and animal resources. The CFIA is a leader and active participant in a variety of future-focussed endeavours. The following activities allow the CFIA and its stakeholders to be proactive in managing long-term threats to food safety and plant and animal health.
As filter feeders, shellfish have the capacity to accumulate pathogens introduced into the water around them from discharges of human and animal waste. Particles as small as viruses can accumulate in the digestive tract of bivalves during filter feeding. Since only a few infective particles are believed to be required to infect an individual, accumulation of intestinal viruses in bivalves can pose a risk to consumers if the shellfish are consumed raw or minimally cooked.
The CFIA is leading a series of projects with Health Canada to research, validate, and test strategies for the detection, characterization, and control of hepatitis A virus, noroviruses, and bacterial and viral indicators in bivalve shellfish.
To date, researchers have compiled the baseline data on the presence of Escherichia coli, M-specific bacteriophage, and their correlation with selected enteric viruses in sampled oysters and surrounding waters from sites in the Pacific and Atlantic regions of Canada. The ultimate goal is to develop an alternative screening approach that will reliably predict viral contamination, and be complemented by the search for specific viruses to better identify the viral contamination source.
The Foresight for Canadian Animal Health Project (Fore-CAN) is a multi-partner initiative led by the CFIA and sponsored by the Chemical, Biological, Radiological-Nuclear and Explosives Research and Technology Initiative (CRTI) of Defence Research and Development Canada. It is focused on stakeholders in the animal health emergency management community working together across disciplines and jurisdictions to learn about and apply foresight methods, which will help build an effective, robust, and anticipatory animal health emergency management system. CFIA partners include Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), the Alberta Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Canada's veterinary colleges, and the Dairy Farmers of Canada. To date, Fore-CAN results include developing emerging priorities for action centred on surveillance and intelligence, communications and collaboration, education and training, regulatory tools and systems, and new science and technology.
The CFIA has also engaged key federal players including Defence Research and Development Canada to work with the United States government to develop a coordinated and strategic science and technology collaboration in animal health. The Joint United States-Canada Workshop on Science and Technology Collaboration for Animal Health Threats has established working groups in risk assessment, science surveillance, diagnostics, biologics, research, and strategic planning.
CFIA's St-Hyacinthe laboratory
The CFIA St-Hyacinthe laboratory tests for food health risks such as Escherichia coli, Listeria and Salmonella. It also plays a central role in food virology, and is recognized as the CFIA's National Reference Laboratory Centre for food virology. In animal health, the laboratory offers diagnostic services, conducts research in animal diseases that can have an impact on public health and international trade, and provides training and certification for non-CFIA laboratories as required.
The CFIA hosted the first plant health foresight workshop in 2009 to position itself to address future challenges in plant health. Subject matter experts from Australia, Canada, Germany, Israel, Mexico, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States presented and discussed challenges and best practices regarding weather, global trade, innovative products, and regulatory requirements for genetically modified crops.
The symposium offered an opportunity for the science community, policy colleagues, industry, and regulators to exchange perspectives and share science, challenges, and foresight concepts and techniques. The CFIA will build on the knowledge gained from the symposium to develop a path forward to integrate foresight and scanning activities in order to position the CFIA for future challenges related to plants.
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