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No link between Siena meats and Canadian listeria deaths

By Rory Harrington , 16-Mar-2010

Consumers in Canada have been warned not to eat Siena Foods cooked ham on fears of Listeria monocytogenes contamination - but five recent deaths in Ontario are not thought to be linked to the produce.

The Ontario state body leading the investigation told FoodProductionDaily.com that while there had been a spike in cases in the last two months, no links have been established between the firm’s meat and five listeria deaths in the province this year.

The alarm was raised late last week when the Ontario Ministry of Health, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and the company itself warned against eating Siena Brand Prosciutto Cotto cooked ham sold after January 11, 2010 with best before dates of March 8 and March 22, 2010.

Dr. Arlene King, Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health said the recall had been made after it was confirmed the genetic fingerprint of the Siena product was a match to two listeriosis cases in the province. Both individuals had been hospitalized but now recovering after being discharged. The genetic fingerprint was also a match to Siena Brand mild cacciatore salami that was recalled in December.

No link to five deaths

The Ministry said there had been a higher-than-normal number of listeriosis cases in the province so far this year with more than a dozen cases already reported – including five fatalities. There are usually about 40 cases annually in the state.

“Ontario has 14 cases of listeriosis so far this year,” Ontario Health Ministry spokesman Andrew Morrison said. “Unfortunately, five cases out of the 14 have died, but it is important to note that none of the deaths are linked to Siena products at this time. There is no food consumption history nor lab data supporting a link to Siena products at this time outside of the two cases with matching ‘DNA fingerprints’ that we reported on Friday.”

Ten of the other 12 remaining cases all have different DNA patterns and do not appear to be linked in any way to one another - while laboratory results are still pending for the remaining two cases. All cases involve adults.

The company has ceased production of its Toronto plant and is working with CFIA inspectors to sanitise the facility.

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