Foodborne proportion of gastrointestinal illness: estimates from a Canadian expert elicitation survey

Foodborne Pathog Dis. 2010 Dec;7(12):1463-72. doi: 10.1089/fpd.2010.0582. Epub 2010 Aug 12.


The study used a structured expert elicitation survey to derive estimates of the foodborne attributable proportion for nine illnesses caused by enteric pathogens in Canada. It was based on a similar study conducted in the United States and focused on Campylobacter, Escherichia coli O157:H7, Listeria monocytogenes, nontyphoidal Salmonella enterica, Shigella spp., Vibrio spp., Yersinia enterocolitica, Cryptosporidium parvum, and Norwalk-like virus. For each pathogen, experts were asked to provide their best estimate and low and high limits for the proportion of foodborne illness relative to total cases. In addition, they provided background information with regard to food safety experience, including self-evaluated expertise for each pathogen on a 5-point scale. A snowball approach was used to identify 152 experts within Canada. The experts' background details were summarized using descriptive statistics. Factor analysis was used to determine whether the variability in best estimates was related to self-assessed level of expertise or other background information. Cluster analysis followed by beta function fitting was undertaken on best estimates from experts who self-evaluated their expertise 3 or higher. In parallel, Monte Carlo resampling was run using triangular distributions based on each expert's best estimate and its limits. Sixty-six experts encompassing various academic backgrounds, fields of expertise, and experiences relevant to food safety provided usable data. Considerable variation between experts in their estimated foodborne attributable proportions was observed over all diseases, without any relationship to the expert's background. Uncertainty about their estimate (measured by the low and high limits) varied between experts and between pathogens as well. Both cluster analysis and Monte Carlo resampling clearly indicated disagreement between experts for Campylobacter, E. coli O157, L. monocytogenes, Salmonella, Vibrio, and Y. enterocolitica. In the absence of more reliable estimates, the observed discrepancy between experts must be explored and understood before one can judge which opinion is the best.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Campylobacter / isolation & purification
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Cryptosporidium parvum / isolation & purification
  • Data Collection
  • Escherichia coli O157 / isolation & purification
  • Food Microbiology*
  • Food Safety*
  • Foodborne Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Foodborne Diseases / microbiology
  • Foodborne Diseases / parasitology
  • Foodborne Diseases / virology
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / microbiology
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / parasitology
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / virology
  • Listeria monocytogenes / isolation & purification
  • Monte Carlo Method
  • Norovirus / isolation & purification
  • Salmonella / isolation & purification
  • Shigella / isolation & purification
  • Uncertainty
  • Yersinia enterocolitica / isolation & purification