Cutting edge technology to improve food safety

A new pilot plant research facility that opened NOV. 9 at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Guelph Food Research Centre (GFRC) will help Canadian farmers and consumers benefit from advances in food safety technologies.

The upgrades to the facility were funded by a $1.15-million grant under the Modernizing Federal Laboratories initiative of the federal government’s economic action plan.

“This upgraded laboratory, the only one of its kind in Canada, will help our scientists test-drive the latest food processing technologies and help us improve Canada’s food safety system,” said Kitchener-Conestoga MP Harold Albrecht at the opening on behalf of Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz. “The research undertaken here will help create products with longer shelf life and improved quality, benefiting our farmers, food processors and consumers.”

The pilot plant facility is unique in Canada for being able to work with pathogens such as Escherichia coli, Listeria and Salmonella to validate emerging food safety technologies in the country.

Some of the emerging food safety technologies to be investigated in the new laboratory involve treatment of pathogens with ultra high pressure, ultra-violet light, microwaves, ultrasounds and ozone. Within the facility, three special containment units, called BioBubbles, will contain any contaminated materials produced while testing processes and prevent release of pathogens in the environment.

As well, a microbiology lab and a cold storage unit are dedicated to the lab’s activities.

The facility will be used by scientists at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada, the University of Guelph and the food industry. It will foster numerous collaborative opportunities among industry, government and academic partners.