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April 20, 2009
Medical Officer of Health Releases New Reports on Foodborne Illness and Food Safety in Toronto
Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David McKeown, today presented two reports to the Board of Health that outline the health and economic impacts from unreported cases of foodborne illness in Toronto.

The Foodborne Illness in Toronto report indicates that the vast majority of cases are not reported. Although the number of food-related illnesses has dropped in the past 10 years, the report estimates that every year, one out of six residents - 437,000 people - gets a foodborne illness. The economic impact in health care costs and lost productivity from this burden of illness is close to $500 million.

The second report, Food Safety in Toronto, provides an overview of the municipal, provincial and federal agencies involved in food safety, and describes how these agencies work together to prevent and respond to outbreaks of foodborne illness.

“The food system has become very complex. Our food is harvested from around the world, processed in large scale plants, and transported across borders before it arrives on your dinner plate,” said Dr. McKeown. “We need to ensure that the system is safe at all levels, and that the public has the information they need to prevent foodborne illness.”

A summary report to the Board of Health contains several recommendations to strengthen the food safety system. Recommendations include province-wide mandatory food handler training and certification for food premise operators; more consistent investigation, compliance and enforcement policies; disclosure of food safety performance records in provincially and federally inspected food premises, improved illness surveillance, and improved capacity in Ontario’s provincial laboratories to test for foodborne illnesses.

The reports are available at

Toronto is Canada's largest city and sixth largest government, and home to a diverse population of about 2.6 million people. It is the economic engine of Canada and one of the greenest and most creative cities in North America. Toronto has won numerous awards for quality, innovation and efficiency in delivering public services. 2009 marks the 175th anniversary of Toronto's incorporation as a city. Toronto's government is dedicated to prosperity, opportunity and liveability for all its residents.

Rishma Govani
Media Relations Coordinator
Toronto Public Health
Tel: 416-338-7974



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