Salmonella is an important cause of foodborne illness in Canada. Each year, approximately 88,000 people become sick from consuming food that is contaminated with Salmonella. While foods such as poultry have long been recognized as causes of Salmonella food poisoning, fresh fruits and vegetables have recently emerged as important sources of Salmonella. This is because fruits and vegetables are grown in soil, where contamination due to animals and non-potable water can occur. As a result, most foodborne illnesses now occur due to consumption of contaminated fresh produce, and a majority of the illnesses caused by these commodities are due to Salmonella.
During this project, the problems associated with Salmonella contamination of fresh produce will be addressed through the development of natural solutions to control the presence of Salmonella on fruits and vegetables as they are growing in the field. New tests will also be developed so that fresh produce can be quickly and efficiently tested for the presence of Salmonella before being sold to consumers. Finally, new tools will be developed to allow public health officials to better determine the source of Salmonella illnesses when they occur, which will allow for contaminated food to be removed from grocery stores, before purchase by consumers.
This project will lead to social and economic benefits for Canadians. For example, the development of faster tests and better tools for public health officials will lead to a reduction in the number of people who become ill from eating contaminated fresh fruits and vegetables. The cost of foodborne diseases caused by Salmonella is estimated to be as high as $1 billion annually in Canada, due to costs associated with medical care, work absenteeism and economic loss to food companies and restaurants. The results of this project will decrease the amount of people who become ill from Salmonella, thereby increasing the health and well-being of Canadians.