The CFIA welcomes opportunities to leverage its science capacity and capability through collaboration.
- Best practices in food safety
- Leveraging best science for animal health
- Collaborative projects in plant health
Food safety science is complex, and CFIA scientists work to stay abreast of new technology, processes, and practices. Essential to this effort is developing strong national and international working relationships. These partnerships help to develop test methods, translate knowledge into useful applications, and develop regulations to protect Canadians.
Collaborative E. coli research will save lives
Infection with verotoxigenic Escherichia coli (VTEC), which includes E. coli O157:H7, can cause a range of reactions from uncomplicated diarrhea to severe haemorrhagic colitis and life-threatening haemolytic uremic syndrome. Beef products have been historically associated with VTEC outbreaks, although other commodities such as fresh produce have also been implicated.
CFIA researchers joined forces with Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada, and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to address critical knowledge gaps related to VTEC and food production and to work together to develop solutions to detect VTEC across the whole supply chain, from the farmer to the consumer. Each department brings a unique expertise and perspective to developing a cohesive method to detect key VTEC strains in foods. Researchers hope that a similar model can be used for other emerging issues such as Listeria contamination.
As part of the CFIA environmental monitoring program, swabs are analyzed for the presence of Salmonella and Listeria. Bacterial isolates from positive samples are further characterized by molecular typing (inset).
Toward new allergen regulations
Several years ago, Health Canada and the CFIA recognized the need for a forum of open discussion among food labs involved in allergen testing, and jointly established the Allergen Methods Committee. This committee provides direction and coordination in the development, delivery, and advancement of allergen testing and research programs. It formalizes guidelines and performance criteria for allergen methods, and develops reference materials and standards to be used as a common ground for method evaluation and implementation in our laboratories.
The CFIA and Health Canada are working to prepare for revised Allergen Regulations. The CFIA is responsible for new analytical methodologies and has made significant progress validating a new method for allergen testing of soy proteins at its laboratories in Longueuil and Burnaby. The test kits will be used by the CFIA, as well as private sector labs or companies that have their own allergen control programs. The CFIA also recently developed a test kit for walnuts. These test kits, along with guidance documents such as the "Guide to Food Labelling and Advertising," assist industry to comply with requirements.
Supporting Higher Education Opportunities in Food Safety Research
In 2009, the CFIA partnered with McMaster University to support two post-graduate researchers - a Masters student studying the mechanism by which Listeria monocytogenes is able to form biofilms, and a PhD student working on the development of a diagnostic test to detect food-borne pathogens in a manufacturing environment. The partnership provides the CFIA with valuable knowledge on the production and possible control of biofilms, as well as more sensitive and rapid detection methods for pathogens such as Listeria.
The CFIA and laboratory accreditation
The CFIA has programs whereby other laboratories may conduct tests for the CFIA or other clients to meet regulatory requirements. We work in conjunction with recognized accrediting bodies such as the Standards Council of Canada (SCC) wherever possible to accredit technically competent external laboratories. The SCC assesses the laboratories, while the CFIA provides trained, qualified technical assessors. This arrangement covers more than 70 laboratories. The majority conduct food, feed, and fertilizer testing, but several labs are accredited for plant and animal health tests.
In some instances, the CFIA is involved in overseeing accreditation with the SCC. For example, through an arrangement with the Canadian Seed Institute, the CFIA's Saskatoon Laboratory accredits seed testing laboratories, while the Canadian Seed Institute conducts follow-up audits. In other instances, the CFIA provides an approval program for laboratories that carry out certain animal and plant health tests.
CFIA scientists partner with universities, federal and provincial government departments, and private sector researchers to continually improve Canada's early warning system and diagnostic capability for animal and zoonotic diseases.
Bridging the gap between animal and human disease science
Recognizing the need to coordinate a joint response to animal and human health surveillance, issues, and possible threats, the CFIA and the Public Health Agency of Canada work together on multiple fronts. Researchers collaborate on a daily basis, whether to solicit or provide science advice or share laboratory testing capabilities. One important collaboration involves comparing the effectiveness of commercial conventional vaccines against the H5N1 influenza virus and the new pandemic H1N1.
The CFIA and the Public Health Agency of Canada have also established several joint working groups - risk assessment, surveillance and information sharing, and science and research - to propose and implement solutions toward greater collaboration on zoonotic diseases. Several positive advances in prevention and preparedness have already occurred as a result. These include an integrated risk assessment for pandemic H1N1 infection in people and swine, and a zoonotic alert module for use by the Canadian Network for Public Health Intelligence.
CFIA partnerships for public safety and security
The CFIA has been involved in several projects funded by the CRTI, (e.g., Canadian Animal Health Surveillance Network, Animal Health Foresight), which is one of the programs managed by Defence Research and Development Canada's Centre for Security Science. For example, in partnership with the Public Health Agency of Canada, the University of Calgary, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the CFIA is working to extend human and veterinary diagnostic capability of Rift Valley fever in North America.
The CFIA is also working with the United Kingdom and industry on an automated portable integrated instrument for the diagnosis of bovine and avian diseases that may have serious consequences.
The CFIA assists Colombian veterinary laboratory in avian disease surveillance
The CFIA's National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease is working with the National Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Bogota, Colombia, to implement laboratory diagnostic methods for the surveillance, identification, and characterization of avian influenza and Newcastle disease viruses. Workshops and hands-on training, including diagnostic test methods, test result evaluation, trouble-shooting, and quality assurance, will form the basis of the three-year twinning project.
Foreign animal disease recognition training
Each year, the National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease hosts a foreign animal disease recognition course to assist front-line veterinarians who may be faced with making critical decisions at the site of a potential foreign animal disease outbreak. Participants attend presentations from Canadian and internationally-recognized experts and participate in clinical rounds and diagnostic training.
Canadian Regulatory Veterinary Epidemiology Network
The CFIA and Atlantic Veterinary College are collaborating to enhance animal health expertise in regulatory veterinary epidemiology in Canada. The new Canadian Regulatory Veterinary Epidemiology Network (CRVE-Net) links Canada's five veterinary schools with federal and provincial agencies.
This initiative supports epidemiological surveillance, risk analysis, and disease modeling. The partnership is attracting further investors such as the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, and the Public Health Agency of Canada, as well as providing excellent training opportunities for veterinarians and students. This network further strengthens Canada's ability to understand and respond to emerging animal health and zoonotic disease challenges.
The CFIA works with several partners in universities, colleges and governments, in Canada and abroad, on plant protection initiatives and to provide leadership for implementation of the national Invasive Alien Species strategy to manage non-native plants and plant pests.
New survey detection tools for Asian gypsy moths
The Asian gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar), pink gypsy moth (L. mathura), and nun moth (L. monacha) are destructive forest pests native to Asia that can hitchhike on international vessels and marine transport containers. Methods to effectively detect these foreign pests are crucial for prevention and eradication. The CFIA provided funding to scientists at Simon Fraser University to conduct studies examining the semiochemical ecology of the moths, as well as their physiological attraction to port lights. They also improved synthetic pathways for production of L. mathura pheromone and provided the CFIA with enough chemicals to implement more effective pheromone-based trapping surveys. This work will help in multi lateral efforts to design better port monitoring systems in Asia, and to decrease the likelihood of these moths laying their eggs on vessels and containers.
Sirex woodwasp surveys in Ontario and Quebec
The CFIA teamed up with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ministère des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune du Québec to conduct extensive detection surveys for Sirex woodwasp (Sirex noctilio). The surveys were based on technical recommendations of scientists in the Canadian Forest Service and allowed the CFIA to tap into the wealth of forest health field expertise in the provincial ministries of natural resources. These ongoing surveys help gather valuable distribution information and support regulatory policy development.
The Sirex woodwasp caused extensive damage to pine plantations after its introduction into the southern hemisphere. Native to Eurasia, this species was detected in the northeastern United States in 2004.
Investigating Canadian beetle trapping techniques
The CFIA has conducted national surveys for the European spruce bark beetle (Ips typographus) - one of the most destructive spruce pests in Europe - and other exotic forest pests since 1998. The CFIA and Slovakia's National Forest Centre collaborated on field trials to evaluate the attractiveness of Canadian trapping systems to the bark beetles in their native European environment. Since the pest does not exist in North America, any tests determining effective trapping techniques must be conducted offshore. Data from this trial will assist in refining Canadian survey protocols and increase the likelihood of detecting I. typographus and other regulated forest pests.
Emerald ash borer biosurveillance
The emerald ash borer (EAB) is a very difficult pest to detect because infestations usually begin in the upper tree canopy. Traditional EAB detection methods, including ground or visual surveys and sticky traps, are costly, labour-intensive, and at times destructive or impractical.
The CFIA and the Province of Ontario supported a series of studies to determine whether a solitary wasp species that preys on buprestid beetles, called Cerceris fumipennis, could be used to detect the presence of EAB. Results from the studies, undertaken in collaboration with the University of Guelph, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the United States Forest Service, revealed that natural colonies of the wasp can detect EAB, and that mobile wasp colonies are more sensitive than current detection tools. The research culminated in the publication of a C. fumipennis guidebook for use by provincial governments, municipalities, and other organizations interested in adopting this methodology. Studies are ongoing to optimize the technique and evaluate operational feasibility as a tool for detection surveys.
Specially designed traps are used to detect the emerald ash borer
Photo: Natural Resources Canada
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