Investigations into an outbreak of foodborne disease attempt to identify the source of illness as quickly as possible. Population-based reference values for food consumption can assist in investigation by providing comparison data for hypothesis generation and also strengthening the evidence associated with a food product through hypothesis testing. In 2014–2015 a national phone survey was conducted in Canada to collect data on food consumption patterns using a 3- or 7-day recall period. The resulting food consumption values over the two recall periods were compared. The majority of food products did not show a significant difference in the consumption over 3 days and 7 days. However, comparison of reference values from the 3-day recall period to data from an investigation into a Salmonella Infantis outbreak was shown to support the conclusion that chicken was the source of the outbreak whereas the reference values from a 7-day recall did not support this finding. Reference values from multiple recall periods can assist in the hypothesis generation and hypothesis testing phase of foodborne outbreak investigations.
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