Foodborne and waterborne illnesses associated with parasitic infections in Canada have been receiving more attention in recent years. The occurrence of parasites is associated with a range of underlying factors. While some outbreaks and cases can be attributed to human sources or activities (e.g., contamination of foods from infected food handlers, or contamination of water with sewage), others are the result of zoonotic transmission where the parasite is transmitted from animals to humans (e.g., infected meat animals and fish, agricultural run-off, companion animals).

In Canada, gastrointestinal parasites have become increasingly important in the differential diagnosis of enteric illness. Rapid and marked changes in human social ecology (migrant workers, immigration, travel to developing countries), modified landscapes (climate change, agricultural intensification) and food production practices are also giving rise to new and emerging foodborne, waterborne and environmental parasites within the Canadian context. Further research is necessary to improve our knowledge and understanding of parasites that can impact public health.

In 2009, the Bureau of Microbial Hazards at Health Canada established a network of Canadian researchers, regulators, and public health officials with an active involvement in issues related to food and environmental parasitology. The Food and Environmental Parasitology Network (FEPN) is the first formal network addressing these issues in Canada, and brings together experts in this important and emerging field. The FEPN is chaired by Dr. Brent Dixon of Health Canada and co-chaired by Dr. Momar Ndao. The Network currently has over 50 members from across Canada representing federal and provincial government, academia, and industry.