safefood launches new collaborative study into infectious intestinal disease

New safefood study will be first in the world to use DNA to measure safety and quality of food

14 May, 2008. safefood has launched a new collaborative study into Infectious Intestinal Disease (IID) at the All-island Infectious Intestinal Disease Conference currently taking place at Clontarf Castle in Dublin. 30% of all infectious diseases reported to the Disease Surveillance Centres in Dublin and Belfast are caused by a range of infectious agents, known to be transmissible through food. The IID study will be carried out in tandem with a UK wide study, conducted in collaboration with the UK Food Standards Agency, and will be the first in the world to use DNA methods to comprehensively estimate the burden of foodborne infections.

The objective of the IID study is to relate gastrointestinal infections to specific pathogens or organisms, so the risks associated with different infectious agents, and the consumption of different foods can be estimated. The study will assess the burden of acute gastrointestinal disease and give a key measure of the safety and quality of food.

The IID study, which will be carried out by the Irish College of General Practitioners will follow up samples of the population for one year to identify all cases and causes of gastrointestinal infection. This task will involve GP practice nurses keeping in weekly contact with 100 patients in each of the sample of 30 practices on the island of Ireland (20 in ROI and 10 in NI) included in the study.

Martin Higgins, Chief Executive, safefood commented: “The reduction of foodborne disease is an important public health target. Foodborne disease does not respect geographical borders, and with so much of our food coming from global sources, it is important to collaborate to find common issues and share solutions. This study is a unique example of collaboration in this field of research with both the north and the south of the island as well as the UK and island of Ireland working together. Conducting this study alongside the UK affords economies of scale, and provides opportunities for comparison of data between the island of Ireland and the United Kingdom.”

Dr. Cliodhna Foley Nolan, Director, Human Health & Nutrition, safefood added, “When people think about infectious diseases they tend to think about diseases like T.B., but research consistently shows three out of ten infectious diseases are causes by infectious agents transmissible through food. We are using gold standard methods to estimate the risks associated with different infectious agents and the consumption of different foods. The IID study will use the most elaborate and sophisticated methodology to date worldwide. The use of DNA molecular laboratory methods will future-proof the information, as molecular microbiological methods are likely to be in routine use in ten years time.”

The All-island Infectious Intestinal Disease Conference at Clontarf Castle, Dublin is taking place on 13th and 14th May 2008. The aim of the conference is to share strategies in the control and prevention of IID, and explore opportunities for all-island cooperation in research and technical guidance. The key areas for discussion include ‘Safe Drinking Water Perspectives’, ‘Listeria’ and ‘Zoonoses Groups’, with a wide panel of expert speakers from the island of Ireland presenting and chairing discussion groups.


For further information please contact

Kate Fitzgerald/Niamh Burdett   Dermot Moriarty
WHPR      safefood
Tel: 01 6690030    Tel: 01 4480600

Editor’s Notes

  • Collaborators for the research project include Health Promotion Surveillance Centre, Irish College of General Practitioners, Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre Northern Ireland and safefood. 
  • The Food Standards Agency is funding the UK aspect of the study while safefood is funding the island of Ireland study.


 EU Zoonoses Reports