slow response from Canadian government officials and poor communication
with the public were among many factors identified by Sheila
Weatherill, who was appointed by the federal government to lead an
independent investigation, as causes behind Maple Leaf Foods'
listeriosis outbreak last summer that killed 22 people.
Weatherill, who formerly led the public health system in Edmonton,
Alberta, offered 57 recommendations to improve food safety in her
report. Among those suggestions were that higher-risk plants be tested
more frequently than others; that Canada's chief public health officer
have a larger role during foodborne illness outbreaks; and that meat
processing equipment be designed with an eye toward limiting the spread
The report was the result of six months of work and more than 100
interviews. To read the full report, click
Weatherill's conclusions follow another report released earlier this
summer by a House of Commons agriculture committee. (See Food
safety overhaul recommended by Canadian ag committee, Meatingplace,
June 19, 2009.)
"This report is tough and it ought to be, with strong
recommendations for further improving the Canadian food safety
system," said Michael McCain, president and CEO of Maple Leaf
Foods, in a news release. "We thought we had a good food safety
program last August, but our efforts failed with tragic consequences.
Since then we have transformed every aspect of our food safety program.
We cannot and will not forget the lessons of last August, and that
means imposing the highest standard of food safety in every product we