The CFIA, with Genome Canada and Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions, will sequence and map the genomes of 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.
The project, led by Dr Linda Chui of the University of Alberta, will lead to faster and more cost-effective ways to screen food for the Listeria bacteria and bolster food safety for Canadians.
Listeria genome database
Through this joint research effort, a database of Listeria genome sequences will be developed and genetic markers identified.
These markers will be used to spot harmful Listeria strains in foods and food processing facilities.
“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.
It is also being leveraged through co-funding from federal, provincial, academic and industry partners, including Maple Leaf Foods.
"Genomics research such as this is equipping us with new, effective ways to combat threats to food safety,” said Pierre Meulien, President and CEO of Genome Canada.
“The impact this research will have on averting potential outbreaks and the consequences for Canadian families and industry is tremendous."
Dr Stan Blade, chief executive officer of Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions, said: "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."