Parents feel betrayed after baby, diagnosed with listeriosis, dies

Last Updated: Wednesday, September 24, 2008 | 1:35 PM ET


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The mother of the six-week-old girl who died after being diagnosed with listerioisis says she feels betrayed by the food system she blames for making her sick.

Six-week-old Alexiss McDonald-Moose died last week. Her mother, Rachel McDonald, says medical officials told her that her daughter contracted listeriosis while still in the womb.

Dr. Joel Kettner, Manitoba's chief medical officer of health, said earlier this week that an infant can be infected during pregnancy, during childbirth or from exposure after birth in the environment.

During a medical checkup before her daughter was born, McDonald said concerns were raised about her nutrition, and a nurse advised her to eat meat.

Although she had not eaten meat since a previous bout of food poisoning, McDonald said she went out of her way to eat meat on the nurse's advice.

"I never used to eat meat until the nurse told me I had to start consuming meat. She told me that peanut butter wasn't good enough, that I had to side it with meat, so I said OK, and I bought sub mix for subs because I don't like hamburger or chicken or nothing," she told CBC News on Wednesday.

"I forced myself to eat subs to try to get that meat in me. And I ate that. And my first time ever trusting meat in my life since I got food-poisoned, this is what happens to us."

She now feels betrayed and angry, she said.

"I'm mad about it," she said. "I would like them to sterilize all the equipment that they use and make sure that this doesn't happen to anybody else, because it's so hard," she said, breaking into tears.

'Better precautions' needed

McDonald's partner, Trenton Moose, is also outraged at a food system that he believes failed his family.

"I just think they should make better precautions for stuff like this," he said.

"I clean a knife after I cut a piece [of] meat with it. I don't put it in the drawer for four more days after I cut up meat and think that it's still good to use the next day. This is ridiculous."

Kettner said lab tests have yet to confirm whether Alexiss's death is from the same strain of Listeria monocytogenes that was the underlying cause of death for 18 people across Canada and prompted Maple Leaf Foods to recall all products from one Toronto plant.

Volunteers in Nelson House, Man., the Cree Nation in northern Manitoba where the family lives, visited 500 houses after learning of the baby's death to check for recalled meat. They found recalled meat products in at least five homes, including McDonald-Moose's.

Public Health Agency of Canada officials say there may still be more cases to come even though the meat products have been pulled off store shelves because the listeria strain has an incubation period of up to 70 days.

To date, there have 48 confirmed cases and nine suspected cases of listeriosis connected to the Maple Leaf strain. Listeriosis was the underlying cause of death in 18 of those confirmed cases and is suspected in seven other cases.

Alexiss's is the fourth case of listeriosis reported in Manitoba in 2008. One other case, reported in August in a man in his 60s in western Manitoba, has been linked to the current national outbreak.

On average, four cases of listeriosis are reported in Manitoba each year.


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