A print friendly PDF version is available from this Communicable Diseases Intelligence issue's table of contents.
Abstract | Introduction | Author Affiliation
AbstractIn 2000, the OzFoodNet network was established to enhance surveillance of foodborne diseases across Australia. OzFoodNet consists of 7 sites and covers 68 per cent of Australia's population. During 2001, sites reported 15,815 cases of campylobacteriosis, 6,607 cases of salmonellosis, 326 cases of shigellosis, 71 cases of yersiniosis, 61 cases of listeriosis, 47 cases of shiga-toxin producing E. coli and 5 cases of haemolytic uraemic syndrome. Sites reported 86 foodborne outbreaks affecting 1,768 people, of whom 4.0 per cent (70/1,768) were hospitalised and one person died. There was a wide range of foods implicated in these outbreaks and the most common agent was S. Typhimurium. Sites reported two international outbreaks; one of multi-drug resistant S. Typhimurium Definitive Type 104 due to helva imported from Turkey, and one of S. Stanley associated with dried peanuts from China. The National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health conducted a national survey of gastroenteritis. Preliminary data from interviews of 2,417 people suggests that the incidence of foodborne illness is significantly higher than previously thought. OzFoodNet initiated case control studies into risk factors for Campylobacter, Salmonella, Listeria, and shiga-toxin producing E. coli. OzFoodNet developed a foodborne disease outbreak register for Australia; established a network of laboratories to type Campylobacter; prepared a survey of pathology laboratories; reviewed Australian data on listeriosis; and assessed the usefulness of sentinel surveillance for gastroenteritis. This program of enhanced surveillance has demonstrated its capacity to nationally investigate and determine the causes of foodborne disease. Commun Dis Intell 2002;26:375-406.
Top of page
IntroductionIn 2000, the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) established a collaborative network, coined OzFoodNet, to enhance the existing surveillance mechanisms for foodborne disease. This was one of a number of projects that the department established to build a strong base for national policy development in the area of food safety.1
The OzFoodNet initiative built upon the experience of an 18-month trial of active foodborne disease surveillance in the Hunter region of New South Wales.2 This pilot was modelled on the FoodNet system of active surveillance in the United States of America (USA), and provided much insight into establishing OzFoodNet (see http://www.cdc.gov/foodnet).3
Mission and aimsThe mission of OzFoodNet is to apply a concentrated effort at a national level to investigate and understand foodborne disease; to describe more effectively its epidemiology and to provide better evidence on how to minimise foodborne illness in Australia.
OzFoodNet aims to:
- estimate the incidence and cost of foodborne illness in Australia;
- improve our understanding of the epidemiology of foodborne disease, by enhancing surveillance and conducting special studies on foodborne pathogens;
- identify inappropriate practices in domestic and commercial settings which lead to food contamination and foodborne illness;
- assess the efficacy of current and proposed food hygiene standards and their enforcement by jurisdictions;
- provide data essential for future risk assessments and policy interventions; and
- train people to investigate foodborne illness.
OrganisationOzFoodNet involves many different agencies and has required a major collaborative effort to establish (Figure 1). The Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing provides funding and strategic management for the OzFoodNet program of work. The department convenes a regular management group that includes senior managers from Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) (formerly the Australian New Zealand Food Authority) and the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry - Australia. Australia's peak body for communicable disease control, the Communicable Diseases Network Australia (CDNA), oversees the work of OzFoodNet.
Figure 1. Outline of OzFoodNet sites showing population covered (in millions) and relationship to other bodies
NCEPH : National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health
FETP : Field Epidemiology Training Program (Master of Applied Epidemiology program)
PHLN : Public Health Laboratory Network
CDNA : Communicable Diseases Network Australia
DoHA : Department of Health and Ageing
FSANZ : Food Standards Australia New Zealand
AFFA : Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry - Australia
In 2000, DoHA provided funding for the six Australian States and the Australian Capital Territory to participate in OzFoodNet. Each of the seven funded jurisdictions has employed one or more epidemiologists to participate in OzFoodNet. These epidemiologists report to the jurisdiction's manager of communicable disease surveillance. Each epidemiologist conducts work that is locally or nationally important for prevention of foodborne diseases. The work program includes a mixture of surveillance, outbreak investigation, and applied research.
A coordinating epidemiologist and a data manager were employed to ensure that the work is conducted efficiently and consistently. Site epidemiologists provide regular reports of foodborne disease incidence to the coordinating epidemiologist, who is the OzFoodNet representative on CDNA.
Every 3 months, the OzFoodNet epidemiologists and a wider group meet to discuss surveillance and control of foodborne diseases and the progress of applied research studies (Figure 2). This wider group forms the basis of the OzFoodNet Working Group, which includes partners from state and territory health departments, the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health (NCEPH), the Public Health Laboratory Network (PHLN), and federal government agencies. OzFoodNet also communicates regularly through monthly teleconferences, and a list server.
Figure 2. Participants at the OzFoodNet face-to-face meeting in Hobart, September 2001
Pictured from left: Gill Hall (NCEPH), Jane Raupach (SA), Donna Cassoni (DoHA), Martyn Kirk (FSANZ), Nittita Prasopa-Plaizier (Vic), Rebecca Hundy (SA), Leanne Unicomb (Hunter Health Area, NSW), Vanessa Madden (Tasmania), Luba Tomaska (FSANZ), Lynne Meuleners (WA), Russell Stafford (Qld), Geoff Millard (ACT), Joy Gregory (Vic)
OzFoodNet currently covers a population of 12.9 million people, or 68 per cent of Australia's population. The states of Queensland, Tasmania, South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia enhanced their surveillance for foodborne disease across the whole state. In New South Wales, the health department enhanced foodborne disease surveillance in the Newcastle region which is covered by the Hunter Health Area. The Australian Capital Territory joined the Network in July 2001 and the Northern Territory participated in OzFoodNet as an observer during 2001.
OzFoodNet reports to the management group on a quarterly basis. The Department of Health and Ageing uses the data and findings to feed into national committees formulating policy, such as the Food Regulation Standing Committee, the Development and Implementation Sub-Committee and the Technical Advisory Group.
Scope of this reportThis first annual report for OzFoodNet synthesises the work and reports of all site epidemiologists for 2001. The report details:
- the incidence of foodborne disease across Australia;
- information on risk factors for foodborne illness;
- ways of improving surveillance for foodborne disease;
- the status of the OzFoodNet projects across Australia;
- outcomes from OzFoodNet activities during 2001; and
- recommendations arising from the work of OzFoodNet.
Author affiliations1. Tasmanian Department of Health and Human Services, Hobart, TAS
2. South Australian Department of Human Services, Adelaide, SA
3. Victorian Department of Human Services, Melbourne, VIC
4. National Centre of Epidemiology and Population Health, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT
5. Food Standards Australia New Zealand, Canberra, ACT
6. Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing, Canberra, ACT
7. Health Department of Western Australia, Perth, WA
8. ACT Department of Health and Community Care, Canberra, ACT
9. Queensland Department of Health, Brisbane, QLD
10.Hunter Health Area Public Health Unit, NSW
The OzFoodNet working group is (in alphabetical order): Rosie Ashbolt (Tas), Robert Bell (Qld), Meredith Caelli (Hunter Health Area, NSW), Scott Crerar (FSANZ), Craig Dalton (Hunter Health Area, NSW), Rod Givney (SA), Joy Gregory (Vic), Gillian Hall (NCEPH), Brigid Hardy (AFFA), Geoff Hogg (MDU), Rebecca Hundy (SA), Karin Lalor (Vic), Martyn Kirk (FSANZ), Ian McKay (DoHA), Vanessa Madden (Tas), Peter Markey (NT), Tony Merritt (Hunter Health Area, NSW), Lynn Meuleners (WA), Geoff Millard (ACT), David Peacock (NT), Nittita Prasopa-Plaizier (Vic), Jane Raupach (SA), Paul Roche (DoHA), Craig Shadbolt (DoHA), Russell Stafford (Qld), Nola Tomaska (NCEPH), Leanne Unicomb (Hunter Health Area, NSW), Craig Williams (FSANZ), Jenny Williams (FSANZ).
Corresponding author: Mr Martyn Kirk, Coordinating Epidemiologist, OzFoodNet, c/o National Public Health Partnership, 589 Collins St, Melbourne 3000, Australia. Telephone: +61 3 9616 1522. Facsimile: +61 3 9616 1500. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was published in Communicable Diseases Intelligence Volume 26, No 3, September 2002
CDI Vol 26, No 3, September 2002
OzFoodNet 2001 Annual Report