Director, Canadian Research Institute for Food Safety (CRIFS)
Food Safety & Quality Assurance Program Graduate Coordinator
Jeff Farber worked at Health Canada for a number of years, as a research scientist, Research Division Chief, Associate Director and then Director of microbial food safety. Farber left the federal government to take up a position as a Full Professor and the Director of Canadian Research Institute for Food Safety (CRIFS). Farber’s research interests at Health Canada centered around mycotoxins, Listeria monocytogenes and Cronobacter sakazakii. Jeff also played a large role in developing many of the food safety policies that are currently in place in Health Canada. Farber is also currently head of the Master’s Program in Food Safety and Quality Assurance.
B.Sc. in Medical Microbiology and Immunology, McGill University
M.Sc.(A) in in Medical Microbiology and Immunology, McGill University
Ph.D. in Food Microbiology, MacDonald College, McGill University
Affiliations and Partnerships
Former President of International Association of Food Protection (>3000 members worldwide)
Former Editor of the International Journal of Food Microbiology
Treasurer and Member, International Commission on Microbiological Specifications for Foods
Member of the New York Academy of Sciences Committee on Food Safety
Member of the US FDA External Advisory Committee for the microbial safety of foods
Member of Springer Publishers Advisory Committee on Food Safety
Member of CFIA Advisory Board – Risk-based inspections
Dr. Farber is well known in the field of Listeria research and policy development, both nationally and internationally. His seminal review paper on L. monocytogenes in 1991 (Farber and Peterkin) has been cited over 2500 times. Farber has over 50 publications in the field of Listeria research and risk assessment.
Dr. Farber also has done seminal research and policy work on Cronobacter spp., which used to be called Enterobacter sakazakii, and his research led to a number of important discoveries and the invitation to co-author a review paper and to edit a book on the organism. His review paper on this organism has been cited over 260 times.
Dr. Farber has proven leadership skills and the ability to create and lead large research teams and to publish seminal reviews and novel frameworks. Dr. Farber was the main person behind the creation of the Federal Food and Environmental Parasitology Network. This network involves a collaboration of scientists across Canada who work on all aspects of research, risk assessment and policy issues affecting the safety of foods and water with respect to parasites.
Current Research Projects
Micro-scale Mission: Enhancing food safety
There is an estimated 4 million cases of foodborne illness every year in Canada, with an estimated annual cost of over 5 billion dollars. Although a number of these cases can be mild and non-life threatening, we are increasingly learning that besides the morbidity and mortality that can be associated with foodborne infections, foodborne pathogen infections can also lead to severe sequelae such as arthritis and Guillain-Barré syndrome. Although we are starting to have some understanding of the disease process, in many instances we do not really understand the ecology of foodborne pathogens, how their virulence changes with different external pressures and why and when some pathogens emerge to cause large and fatal outbreaks such as the large European E. coli O104:H4 outbreak associated with the consumption of fenugreek sprouts. Some of the major objectives of this research project include developing i) new strategies to control foodborne pathogens, ii) new models to understand the macro and molecular aspects of host/pathogen relationships and iii) disease modeling tools to predict events that may perturb host/pathogen/environment relationships and thus lead to the emergence of new foodborne pathogens. This research has been funded by the Canadian First Research Excellence Fund.
What is the microbiological safety of low-moisture foods?
Due to a number of food safety concerns with "low moisture foods" (LMF), there has been worldwide recognition of the need to more seriously manage the microbiological hazards associated with these products. Although Salmonella spp. have been the main foodborne pathogens involved in outbreaks due to LMF, currently there are also concerns about the survival of Listeria monocytogenes in LMF such as dried fruits and tree nuts. This is because recent outbreaks have apparently been caused by foods containing low numbers of the organism. In addition, foodborne viruses such as norovirus and hepatitis A virus have been increasingly linked to outbreaks associated with LMF such as frozen berries and semi-dried tomatoes. Some studies have been conducted on the survival and transfer of these viruses in produce, but little if any data exist with respect to viral survival and interaction with LMF. For example, do viruses that survive on LMF for long periods of time still remain capable of causing human illness? Furthermore, there is a definite need to develop new ways of inactivating bacterial and viral pathogens in LMF such as dried fruit and tree nuts. Traditional methods such as wet pasteurization cannot be used because of the dry and fragile composition of some of the LMF. Thus, a number of novel experimental methods will be used to inactivate pathogens on LMF. This research has been funded by the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI).
Graduate Student Information
Jeff supervises graduate students in both the normal research stream and in the FSQA MSc program. Dr. Farber takes on Canadian and international students in many different disciplines related to food safety, including non-lab bench projects such as risk assessments of food/pathogen combinations. Dr. Farber likes his student to be independent and critical thinkers. His extensive background at Health Canada also gives him a unique focus into the regulatory world.
Graduate students are currently working on projects involving the survival of foodborne pathogens in low moisture foods, the survival of Salmonella and E. coli in dry-fermented sausages, with World Vision on the risk assessment of iron-fortified non-traditional foods for infants and children in developing countries and the effectiveness of UV-C light on the inactivation of pathogens on food preparation surfaces.
Jeff’s students have gone on to positions in the government, academia and the food industry.
Dixon, B., B. Mihajlovic, H. Couture and J.M. Farber. 2016. Qualitative Risk Assessment: Cyclospora cayetanensis on fresh raspberries and blackberries imported into Canada. Food Protect. Trends 36(1): 18-32.
Thomas M. K., R. Vriezen, J. M. Farber, A. Currie, W. Schlech and A. Fazil. 2015. Economic cost of a Listeria monocytogenes outbreak in Canada, 2008. Foodborne Pathogens and Disease. 12 (12): 1-6.
Clime, L., XYD Hoa, N. Corneau, K.J. Morton, C. Luebbert, M. Mounier, D. Brassard, M. Geissler, S. Bidawid, J. Farber and T. Veres. 2015. Microfluidic filtration and extraction of pathogens from food samples by hydrodynamic focusing and inertial lateral migration. Biomed. Devices 17 (1): 1-14.
Byrd-Bredbenner C1, Cohn MN, Farber JM, Harris LJ, Roberts T, Salin V, Singh M, Jaferi and A. Sperber WH. 2015. Food safety considerations for innovative nutrition solutions. Annal Reports 1347: 29-44. Annals of the NY Acad Sci. 10.1111/nyas.12779.
Currie, A., J.M. Farber, C. Nadon, et al. 2015. Multi-province listeriosis outbreak linked to contaminated deli meat consumed primarily in institutional settings, Canada, 2008. Foodborne Pathogens and Disease. 12 (8): 645-652.
Linkedin: Jeff Farber
Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CfYCSq7fsIg