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New genomics research project to eliminate Listeria from food supply

This news release is available in French.

OTTAWA -- Genome Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), and Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions have partnered to support a $1.4 million project that will help protect consumers from Listeriosis, a serious foodborne illness caused by Listeria bacteria.

The project, led by Dr. Linda Chui of the University of Alberta, will sequence and map the genomes of many Listeria strains to identify those strains that are likely to be most harmful to human health as well as those most likely to survive in food processing facilities. This research will lead to faster and more cost-effective ways to screen food for the Listeria bacteria and bolster food safety for Canadians.

"The Harper Government is committed to improving Canada's already robust food safety system, as outlined in the Safe Food for Canadians Action Plan," said Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz. "Through continued investments in science and innovation, we are creating opportunities to better identify and reduce risks for consumers, meaning safer food for Canadian families."

"We are pleased to see our investments in genomics research having tangible results," said the Honourable Gary Goodyear, Minister of State (Science and Technology). "This project shows how Canada's leadership in genomics-based research benefits Canadians by helping protect consumers from serious foodborne illness while developing a more competitive food sector."

Through this joint research effort, a database of Listeria genome sequences will be developed and genetic markers identified. These markers will be used to rapidly spot harmful Listeria strains in foods 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.

"Ensuring the safety of food products is critical to public health and the competitiveness of our agri-food and agriculture industries," said Dr. Stan Blade, Chief Executive Officer of Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions. "New Listeria detection tests that produce results quickly will allow food producers and regulators to act swiftly and provides assurance of an even higher level of food safety for Canadians," he added.

Dr. Chui's 18-month research project is supported through an investment of $250,000 each from Genome Canada (via Genome Alberta) and the CFIA, and $100,000 from Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions. This investment is also being leveraged through co-funding from federal, provincial, academic and industry partners, including Maple Leaf Foods, increasing the total investment to $1.4 million.

"The strength of our project is in the world-class expertise of the research team and the support of many distinguished organizations from across Canada," said Dr. Chui. "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."


Contact: Andrea Matyas
613-751-4460 x231
Genome Canada

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