Maple Leaf apologizes again for listeriosis deaths

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Last Updated: Monday, August 24, 2009 | 12:14 PM ET

CBC News

Maple Leaf Foods Inc. took out full-page ads in a number of Canadian newspapers to mark the one-year anniversary of the listeriosis outbreak in which 22 Canadians died.

Maple Leaf Foods, whose meat products were linked to the deaths, said that as a result of the outbreak, the company was committed to "becoming a global leader in food safety to prevent this kind of a tragedy from ever happening again."

"On behalf of our 24,000 employees, we promise to never forget," said Michael McCain, Maple Leaf's chief executive officer, in a letter-style advertisement that appeared in Canadian daily newspapers, including the Globe and Mail, the Edmonton Journal and the Vancouver Sun.

In 2008, 22 Canadians died and many more became sick after eating contaminated deli meats that mainly originated at a Maple Leaf plant located in north Toronto.

Maple Leaf believed the anniversary of this tragedy should not pass unmarked, the company said.

"We just felt it was important to do," said Linda Smith, a Maple Leaf spokesperson.

At the time, Maple Leaf recalled the meat, closed and cleaned the plant where it was packaged and boosted company-wide sanitary procedures.

In addition, the firm hired a chief food safety officer, whose job is to boost inspection procedures and policies within Maple Leaf to ensure there is no repeat of such an outbreak, Smith said.

In July, a federal report examining the listeriosis outbreak in 2008 blamed internal Maple Leaf policies, among other factors, as the reason for the infection problems.

Still, Maple Leaf's meats have faced some quality-control issues this year.

In August, the company recalled nine wiener products, including Shopsy's All-Beef Wieners, after discovering small amounts of listeria monocytogenes, the agent that causes listeriosis to occur in humans.

Maple Leaf has "zero tolerance" for listeria contamination, which occurs once in every 200 meat packages, Smith said. So, more testing twice the level the company did previously means that the company will be recalling more meat under the new quality-control regime, she said.


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