Consumers lining up to sue Maple Leaf




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Hundreds of angry consumers of Maple Leaf food products have signed up to sue the company at the centre of the tainted meat scandal, a lawyer says.

Lawsuits were filed yesterday in Ontario, Saskatchewan, Quebec, British Columbia and Manitoba by lawyer Tony Merchant.

"We've been getting 23 to 30 calls every hour since Thursday," said the Regina-based lawyer with Merchant Law Group LLP.

The lawsuit over listeria bacteria contamination will cover complainants concerned about illness, financial loss and legitimate worry, Merchant said.

The lawyer has built his reputation working on high-profile cases like the lawsuit involving 10,000 former residential school students and the court action against Menu Foods over the contamination of pet food.

Maple Leaf has recalled more than 220 products produced since July and shut down the North York factory linked to the meat.

The plant, which was expected to open today, will stay closed until the company runs a test of its operations, company spokesman Linda Smith said.

The shutdown and recall cost Maple Leaf Foods $20 million.

Maple Leaf stock dropped $1 to $8.80 yesterday.

On Sunday, Maple Leaf president and CEO Michael McCain aired a message saying it's the "toughest situation the company has faced in a 100 years" and apologized to families who lost loved ones.

Public relation firms say that Maple Leaf is on the right track to redeem its brand, but is missing a vital part. They don't give consumers the assurance that this won't happen again, said Veritas vice-president of corporate affairs, Jason MacDonald.

It will take time to regain consumer confidence -- "probably a year," said Environics Communications president Bruce MacLellan.

"They are lucky to have a good reputation before and will be drawing on their brand equity to rebuild it," he said.


photo Maple Leaf Foods president and CEO Michael McCain delivers the company's regrets via YouTube. The company has recalled 220 products over listeria contamination concerns.


August 26, 2008



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