Media report misleading, claims Canadian processor

By staff reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Maple leaf, Maple leaf foods, Chief executive officer, Bacteria, Food, Listeria

Maple Leaf Foods said a media report stating it had ‘discussed food safety in relation to listeria’ with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) before last summer's outbreak and product recall is misleading and irresponsible in the context of on the record statements from both parties involved.

"While we welcome open discussion of the outbreak in any and all reviews to ensure appropriate lessons are drawn from this tragedy, we take the strongest possible exception to any inference that we withheld information from the public,"​ said Maple Leaf’s chief executive officer, Michael McCain.

In December, the company settled consumer lawsuits filed in the wake of the listeriosis contamination in August to the tune of CAN$27m (US$22.5m).

The meat processor identified Listeria​ lurking deep inside two meat-slicing machines as the most likely source of the contamination, and the CFIA subsequently requested that all federally inspected plants with similar equipment conduct a systematic and thorough cleaning procedure.

McCain said that the company has worked to be open, transparent, and factual in all its public statements regarding this tragedy: “We acted swiftly to recall products, shut plants, to protect Canadians as soon as tests linked listeria to our products and the outbreak. To suggest otherwise is both unfortunate and unacceptable."

He said that the handwritten notes cited in the article, which was published yesterday in the Canadian Press, reflect a general discussion of microbial pathogens with the CFIA, including listeria.

“Listeria was not discussed in the context of any food safety issue; it was discussed in the context of US trade regulations during a routine and ongoing dialogue with the government.

“At the time the meeting occurred on 24 July, no one at Maple Leaf Foods or the CFIA had any reason to believe there was a health issue involving listeria related to Maple Leaf product,” ​added McCain.

Maple Leaf recently claimed that consumer confidence in its products is being restored following the recall.

The processor said that it has implemented new ways of mitigating the risk of the pathogen in its products through new food safety protocols across its 24 packaged meat facilities including new sanitation protocols to ensure effective reduction for the potential for bacterial harbourage points in building and equipment.

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