July 23, 2015 - The Government of Canada announced today that it has established the Food Virology National Reference Centre at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) laboratory in St. Hyacinthe, Quebec. This CFIA reference centre will enhance Canada's ability to effectively detect viral contaminants in food, such as noroviruses and hepatitis A.
Also announced was an agreement between the CFIA and Genome Quebec that will develop genomics-based analytical methods for pathogen detection and epidemiological support. This partnership is expected to lead to the development of more precise, molecular-based methods for identifying specific strains of foodborne viruses. This ultimately could help the CFIA trace
outbreaks of viral foodborne illness back to a specific source and take a more targeted approach to recalling contaminated products. It will also allow public health officials to identify high-risk strains of foodborne viruses.
Viruses account for about 65 per cent of known cases of foodborne illness in Canada. The joint expertise of Genome Quebec and the CFIA will help trace the sources of food contamination during outbreaks more efficiently.
Over the next five years, the CFIA will continue to improve its laboratory services in St-Hyacinthe by modernizing its facilities and equipment as well as conducting research and developing new methods of detection. Additionally, the laboratory has been increasing professional and technical staff and is developing advanced technologies for food surveillance.
The Food Virology National Reference Centre will be a part of the Food Safety Information Network announced earlier this year. The FSIN will be implemented incrementally over five years, linking federal and provincial food safety authorities and accredited laboratories across the country.