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Twinning programme

With a view to promoting international co-operation with third countries that are signatories of S&T bilateral agreements with the European Community, initiatives towards collaboration between projects selected respectively under this FP7 theme and under related research programmes from those third countries are encouraged, on the basis of principles of mutual benefit and reciprocity.

The costs of these activities are expected to be approximately 1% of the total European Community contribution to the FP project; parallel funds are expected to be allocated by the counterpart Third country programme for twinning with the FP projects.

The BASELINE Project has been selected for a twinning with two Canadian Projects:

Mitigating dissemination of bioterrorism agents in Canadian food systems

Pascal Delaquis1, Susan Bach1, Denyse LeBlanc1, Julie Brassard1, Alain Houde1, Sébastien Villeneuve1, Greg Bezanson1, Moussa Diarra1, Ed Topp1, Burton Blais2, Alvin Gajadhar2, Jean-Robert Bisaillon2, Aamir Fazil3, Matthew Gilmour3, Kirsten Mattison4, Sabah Bidawid4. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre, 4200 Highway 97 South, Summerland, BC V0H 1Z0

1 Agriculture and AgriFood Canada, 2 Canadian Food Inspection Agency, 3 Public Health Agency of Canada, 4 Health Canada.

International risk assessment exercises intimate that intentional contamination of food systems with CBRN agents is a realistic threat, with unpredictable and potentially catastrophic consequences to public health and national economies. The Canadian food system incorporates many independent production, processing, transportation, distribution and retail channels that deliver a profusion of fresh or processed foods to consumers in distant markets, often within a matter of hours or days. Hence the identification of vulnerabilities and the measurement of risks associated with contamination of specific commodities or products in the Canadian food system must be accomplished in consideration of complex elements along the farm-to-fork continuum. We will demonstrate a practical systems-based approach for the assessment of risk that incorporates detailed analyses of discrete stages along the farm-to-fork continuum. Key elements of the strategy include: the acquisition and compilation of data on agricultural production systems, processing facilities, transportation and distribution systems for the development of computerized mapping tools to predict the dissemination of contaminated food along temporal and geographic planes; the development of validated mathematical models to predict threat behaviour at each stage and along the entire chain; and the design of decision making tools to identify sampling strategies needed to verify model performance.

The value of the strategy will be demonstrated though a detailed analysis of the fresh or minimally processed produce sector and will include field based experimentation using surrogate bacterial, viral and parasitic agents to provide realistic data for model development and validation. Essential knowledge about the ecology of microbiological hazards in the agricultural and food environments, expertise in GIS-based mapping of food production and transportation systems and in the application of modelling tools to measure risk will be provided by a multidisciplinary team drawn from federal agencies mandated with ensuring the safety of the food supply. Hence the proposed research will address critical gaps in Canada's ability to deal with bioterrorism events directed at the food supply. The suite of tools that will be developed will improve pre-event planning by helping to identify vulnerabilities, potential impacts, and the design of intervention and risk management strategies. In addition, these tools will significantly contribute to response capability by improving rapid detection performance through effective, targeted sampling strategies, streamlining the ability to intercept and contain product, predicting potential impacts to ensure appropriate resources are available, and identifying effective point (s) of intervention for a range of contamination scenarios.

Ecology of human enteric pathogens in fresh horticultural products

Pascal Delaquis1, Susan Bach1, Peter Toivonen1, Julie Brassard2, Alain Houde2, Évelyne Guévremont2, Greg Bezanson3, Martin Kalmokoff3, Magda Kostrzynska4.
1 Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre, 4200 Highway 97 South, Summerland, BC V0H 1Z0
2 Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Food Research and Development Centre, StHyacinthe, Qc.
3 Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Kentville Research Centre, Kentville, NS
4 Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Guelph Research Centre, Guleph, ON

The long term objective of advancing knowledge for the development of effective responses to food safety issues associated with fresh horticultural products must be addressed in recognition that a range of human pathogens can contaminate these products. These may include psychrophilic species such as L. monocytogenes, mesophilic E. coli O157:H7 or Salmonella spp. capable of growth at 8° C, thermophilic C. jejuni incapable of growth at refrigeration temperatures or viruses that cannot replicate outside a host. We will therefore examine the influence of major stresses encountered during production, processing and storage on the fate and specific behaviours associated with representative species from each group of pathogen in packaged fresh-cut lettuce and spinach.

The proposal draws significance from its intention to achieve a more realistic measurement of survival or growth capacity in a range of pathogens, generating comparative data that can be used in risk assessment exercises to reduce the risk to public health. The research will serve to add fundamental knowledge of relevance to the understanding of microbial behaviour in leafy vegetables under hitherto poorly characterized or undefined stresses. The knowledge derived from this work will be indispensable to the development of more effective disinfection treatments or hurdle-based preservation strategies meant to remove or inactivate infectious agents or to discourage the growth of enteric bacterial pathogens in fresh-cut leafy vegetables. The deliverables will provide a better understanding of the ecology of several enteric human pathogens in fresh-cut leafy vegetables, specifically of the nature of the interaction with plant tissues and of factors which favour their survival and/or growth.