Foodborne disease affects 4 million Canadians every year

April 14, 2014

Every year one in eight Canadians suffers from a foodborne infection, according to the Canadian Public Health Agency.

Knowing exactly how many people are affected by foodborne diseases in North America is not an easy task. There are cases of underreporting, or instances when people do not even realize they are suffering from a foodborne infection. But the Canadian Public Health Agency has been gathering extensive regional information over the past few years, trying to fill in gaps in the knowledge of foodborne outbreaks, announcing with 90 percent credibility that every year one in eight Canadians suffers from such an infection, which roughly equals 4 million people.

The research reveals that there are 30 known pathogens that cause foodborne illnesses in Canada. Combined, they represent fewer than half of all reported cases, with the majority of illnesses attributed to unknown agents. Of those identified, norovirus is the most common, linked with almost two in three cases, or just over one million people. This is followed by the Clostridium perfringens bacteria, which affects just over one in ten patients, or approximately 177,000 people. The third most commonly identified cause of foodborne illnesses is Camplylobacter (145,000), followed by Salmonella (87,000). Together, these four pathogens represent nine out of 10 cases of foodborne diseases in which the cause has been identified, the Public Health Agency of Canada announced.

The agency stated that the information provides the most accurate estimate yet of foodborne pathogens and their effect on public health. The data highlights the fact that more work should be done in gaining more understanding of foodborne diseases without a known cause.