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More sharing, more safety

November 2019

Canadian Food Safety Information Network

Foodborne illness affects one in eight Canadians every year. When incidents occur, Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) staff work around the clock alongside federal, provincial and territorial partners. Their mission: to minimize the impact on Canadians and investigate the cause of the outbreak.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure

As the saying goes, 'an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.'

That's why the Canadian Food Safety Information Network (CFSIN) will introduce new digital tools to allow CFIA and its federal, provincial and territorial food safety and public health partners to better anticipate, detect and respond to food safety events and emergencies, by harnessing the power of shared data.

"I'm excited about the work we're doing that would enable partners to combine and share Pan-Canadian data," says Christiane Villemure, Executive Director, CFSIN. "It gives us and our partners an opportunity to get earlier warnings of food safety issues and when issues do arise, a more coordinated way to respond to outbreaks."

Modern tools to facilitate collaboration

The CFSIN will promote an enhanced network of food safety authorities and food testing laboratories across Canada. They will have access to a series of digital tools to collaborate more easily across provincial and territorial borders.

One of these powerful tools is environmental scanning software, which can analyze over 30,000 sources of information in up to nine languages, such as news articles, academic sources, and social media channels to categorize and notify food safety experts of trending food safety risks around the world. The tool uses machine learning – a type of artificial intelligence – to prioritize data and flag areas of highest risk to experts.

Environmental scanning was developed in partnership between CFIA, the National Research Council of Canada and provincial authorities.

The past can predict the future

While the objective of environmental scanning is to identify current or emerging risks, another tool looks at the past to predict the future. Predictive analytics use large amounts of historical data to forecast the likelihood of future behaviour or outcomes. For example, insurance companies have increased premiums for certain drivers based on how likely they are to get in an accident.

In the context of the CFSIN, predictive analytics will use data collected from the sampling and testing of food by CFIA inspectors and other partners across Canada. Taking into account historical data and trends associated with certain combinations of foods, environmental factors, populations and hazards, the tool will use machine learning to identify trends and patterns and warn officials when food safety issues are likely to occur.

"Making the most of this data and analytical tools will mean that CFIA and our partners can work on more preventive approaches to the surveillance of food," says Villemure. "The goal of the CFSIN is to help food safety and public health authorities better protect Canadians, by maximizing our shared expertise and efforts to better understand, anticipate and respond to foodborne illness in Canada."

Do you have questions about the CFSIN? Contact us at

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