The CAD$1.4m project is being backed by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), Genome Canada, Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions and academic and industry partners, including Maple Leaf Foods. It will be led by Dr Linda Chui of the University of Alberta.
Dr Chui and her associates will sequence and map the genomes of various listeria strains and identify the genetic markers of the strains most harmful to human health, as well as those most likely to thrive in food processing plants. It is hoped this will help speed up the development of faster and more cost-effective testing methods for listeria in food and food processing facilities.
“Genomics research such as this is equipping us with new, effective ways to combat threats to food safety. The impact this research will have on averting potential outbreaks and the consequences for Canadian families and industry is tremendous,” said Pierre Meulien, president and CEO of Genome Canada.
Dr Chui said the 18-month project would involve a “world-class” research team, who would be supported by Canada’s most “distinguished” food safety and science organisations.
“The different researchers on the team bring leading-edge expertise in many areas including food sample preparation, assays development, state-of-the art capacity in bioinformatics and genomics, pathogen detection and outbreak response,” she added.
The Canadian government has been working hard to strengthen food safety measures after the country was rocked by an E.coli outbreak that led to the country’s biggest beef recall in September last year.
Agriculture minister Gerry Ritz said that “continued investments in science and innovation” were part of the government’s plan to improve food safety.