New genomics research project to eliminate listeria from food

by • July 5, 2013 • Agbiotech/industrial, Agri-Food, Science FocusComments (1)1573

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.

The project, led by Dr. Linda Chui of the University of Alberta, will sequence and map the genomes of many Listeria strains. The goal is to identify the 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.

“We are pleased to see our investments in genomics research having tangible results,” said the Minister of State (Science and Technology) Gary Goodyear. “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.”

The research collaboration will develop a database of Listeria genome sequences and identify genetic markers. These markers will then be used to 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.

“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.”

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.

“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, CEO 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.”

More information on Listeria and Listeriosis can be found at this link:

Photo Caption: Dr. Linda Chui, University of Alberta. Photo Courtesy: © Marc J Chalifoux Photography, 2013; pic Photography & Marc J Chalifoux Photography. (Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions).

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