Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

September 18, 2002

Canadian Research Institute for Food Safety officially opens

The University of Guelph, along with the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), Ontario Innovation Trust (OIT), and Brenda Chamberlain, MP for Guelph-Wellington, today unveiled the results of a more than $8-million investment in the future of food safety by officially opening the Canada Research Institute for Food Safety (CRIFS).

Located on the Guelph campus, CRIFS allows scientists to perform multidisciplinary research to help improve the safety of the Canadian food supply at all points from farm to fork, said director Mansel Griffiths, a professor in the Department of Food Science.

The Level III biocontainment facility allows researchers from a variety of University departments to examine highly hazardous food and animal-to-human pathogens, such as West Nile virus and tuberculosis, and lower-level pathogens, such as E. coli 0157:H7, Salmonella and Listeria, in a safe and secure environment. The facility is equipped with safety features that ensure no pathogens leave the lab.

“CRIFS is dedicated to generating new knowledge through basic and applied research,” Griffiths said, adding that scientists can perform a variety of research and diagnostic tests that will help identify and trace food-borne pathogens and the outbreaks in illness that can result. “It is our goal to improve safety and quality by providing sound scientific information, research and development, food safety alerts and technology.”

Funding for the facility was provided by CFI and OIT. David Strangway, CFI president and CEO, said the centre will “provide researchers with many opportunities to undertake cutting- edge research that will support the development of world-class expertise right here at home. As a result of this investment, the CFI is helping to set the conditions to attract and retain top-quality researchers in Canada."

OIT president Ken Knox, added that the trust is pleased to be supporting vital research. “The establishment of the Canadian Research Institute for Food Safety is a key element in enhancing Guelph as a renowned centre for food safety research."

Indeed, CRIFS is an important part of the University's repertoire of top-notch expertise and research facilities, said Alan Wildeman, Guelph’s vice-president (research). “It builds on our reputation as a leading centre for agri-food, food safety and human health research.” The centre’s Level III status opens up avenues of investigation previously unavailable to Guelph researchers, he said. “It allows scientists to work with hazardous agents in a safe environment, clearing the way for research on needed vaccines, antibodies and diagnostics tests to combat diseases.”

Levels I, II, III and IV refer to risk groups of biological hazards as designated by Health Canada. They are recognized standards for levels of physical containment required for micro-organisms, based on the severity of illness they cause in humans and animals. A Level III designation means that Guelph’s lab design and operation meet high safety and security standards and have passed a rigorous inspection and approval process. The University’s biosafety committee was also involved in the planning, and Health Canada will conduct annual inspections.

A ceremony to officially open the research institute was held during the “International Approaches to Food Safety – Are We All on the Same Page?” symposium, which attracted top food safety experts from around the world to Guelph.

Mansel Griffiths
Director, Canadian Institute for Food Safety Research
Professor, Department of Food Science
(519) 824-4120, Ext. 2269

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 3338.

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