'Maple Leaf was responsible for the loss of 21
of Article: http://www.thestar.com/News/GTA/article/617946
Apr 14, 2009 04:30 AM
Michael McCain had known last year what he knows today about the deadly
listeria bacteria, 21 lives could have been saved, the president and CEO of
Maple Leaf Foods said yesterday.
blindingly clear that Maple Leaf was responsible for the loss of 21
lives," McCain told a meeting of the Star's editorial board. "I felt that
Maple Leaf conducted its own internal listeria tests prior to the outbreak,
McCain said the company wasn't rigorous enough about analyzing the results.
didn't have a sense of what was high," he said. "We weren't
asking the government for more rigorous standards. We should have
Maple Leaf outbreak, traced to cold cuts produced in the company's Bartor
Rd. plant last August, triggered a national scare and a public-relations
nightmare for one of Canada's oldest and most identifiable food companies.
two separate federal investigations into the outbreak underway, McCain is
calling for tougher food regulations in Canada and coming clean about an
industry-wide lack of scrutiny around the deadly pathogen.
listeria outbreak was caused, in part, by a "failure of
expectations" in Canadian food safety regulations that historically
had no requirement for listeria testing, he said.
collected at Maple Leaf's Bartor Rd. plant in 2008 prior to the outbreak
indicated 4.1 per cent of samples were positive, a figure not previously
released to the public. Those findings were within company protocols in
place at the time, he said.
we were not as good as we thought we were then, and we now know that this
positive sample rate would be higher than compared to our current practices
and the rigour we now have in place ... We wish we knew then what we know
the time McCain was warned about the test results, people were already
dying. "I wish we had known earlier. But we didn't."
the outbreak, the company has doubled its testing and increased analysis of
the results, he said. It also now quarantines any food that produces
positive tests until further testing can be done.
company's new quarantining protocol – in which suspect meat is blocked from
shipment until it is proven to be safe – already had an embarrassing
failure in February when 26,000 packages of quarantined hot dogs were accidentally
sent to distributors and stores.
federal government has also imposed new listeria testing rules on the
industry since the Maple Leaf outbreak.
of April 1, companies and Canadian Food Inspection inspectors must conduct
occasional tests on meat before it is shipped to market and all positive
tests must be reported. McCain calls the new measure a meaningful step
he is calling for further government reforms including greater transparency
around food-borne illness trends and enforcement activities.
it stands, detailed inspection results from Canadian meat plants cannot be
obtained under the federal access to information act. Such records, along
with an array of other food-borne illness information, are widely available
in the U.S.
the outbreak has been damaging for Maple Leaf, including a $27 million
lawsuit it settled with victims in December, sales have largely rebounded,
Monday, McCain is scheduled to appear before the parliamentary agriculture
committee that recently launched a public investigation into the outbreak
and, more broadly, the country's food safety system.
separate probe, ordered by the Prime Minister's Office, is being led by
Sheila Weatherill, former president and CEO of Edmonton's Capital Health
Region. Weatherill, who will not hold public hearings and has no authority
to call witnesses, is expected to issue her report July 20.