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Maple Leaf expects $20-million in losses related to listeria recall
Jonathan Ratner, Financial Post Published: Sunday, August 24, 2008
Source of Article:
Shares of Maple Leaf Foods Inc. may fall when the market opens on Monday after test results from Health Canada over the weekend established a link between meat products recalled by the company and a listeria outbreak that has been linked to at least four deaths. The company now estimates direct costs associated with the recall will be $20-million before taxes as it deals with reimbursements for returns, factory clean-up and other expenses. This will likely be reflected in its fiscal third quarter ended September 2008.
There was no mention of funds being allotted for potential lawsuits and Maple Leaf CEO Michael McCain would not comment on possible compensation for affected families during a Sunday afternoon conference call. "This is not about the lawyers and the accountants. It's about public health and our consumers and people, that's where we're spending our time and attention," he said.
He also had no update on the company's restructuring efforts or how this would affect those plans, but noted that the company's CFO would be holding a conference call with analysts at 9 a.m. on Monday morning.
However, the company warned that the $20-million figure is subject to change based on the actual amount of product returned by customers, costs associated with increased advertising and the possibility of reduced sales that it cannot yet estimate.
While the news may lead to more selling after Maple Leaf shares dipped 10% since it recalled two of its processed meat brands on Sunday, August 17 and expanded the recall to 23 products three days later, the company's approach to the contaminated meat scare may be what ultimately matters most to consumers and investors.
As of Sunday afternoon, there were 21 related cases confirmed in four provinces ? Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec ? and another 30 under under investigation. On Saturday, Maple Leaf expanded its product recall to include all production from its plant in Toronto, where sanitization work is expected to be complete early this week. It is also doing its best to comfort customers.
"This week, our best efforts failed and we are deeply sorry," Mr. McCain said in a video posted on YouTube. "This is the toughest situation we've faced in a 100 years as a company. We know this has shaken your confidence in us."
The news brings up bad memories for consumers and investors alike who were affected by Ontario-based Menu Foods Income Fund's tainted pet-food scandal. Menu Food's shares plummeted after cat and dog deaths were revealed in March, 2007. Executives were forced to take pay cuts and the company chopped its workforce after recalling roughly 60 million pet food packages and facing dozens of lawsuits.
Menu Foods was criticized for how it dealt with the problem and the speed in which it made information available. Maple Leaf has tried to avoid those problems by providing a recall list on its Web site and frequent media updates.
"Typically, these types of issues can result in little or no permanent damage to the brand reputation if dealt with pro-actively and openly," TD Newcrest analyst Michael Van Aelst said in an Aug. 22 research note. "It is usually only when the company tries to cover up the problem that real and sometimes irreparable damage tends to occur," Bloomberg reported.
Last week, Scotia Capital analyst Cherilyn Radbourne said insurance would likely cover losses associated with the plant closure. She told clients that the impact to Maple Leaf's reputation is difficult to predict and will ultimately depend on whether the outbreak is traced back to the company's products.
Maple Leaf has approximately 23,000 employees in Canada, the United States, Europe and Asia, with $5.2-billion in sales last year.

Consumers lining up to sue Maple Leaf

Source of Article:
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.

Maple Leaf Foods plant involved in massive recall remains closed
By Ann Bagel Storck on 8/27/2008
Source of Article:
Canadian processor Maple Leaf Foods postponed reopening the Toronto facility involved in an outbreak of listeriosis linked to deli meats that has killed six people.
The company, which had planned to open the plant Tuesday, now expects to do so on Thursday, according to published reports. Maple Leaf wants extra time to complete additional equipment disassembly and further tests. The processor has recalled more than 200 products produced at the plant, making it one of the largest food recalls ever in Canada.
Earlier this week, the Public Health Agency of Canada said there have been 26 confirmed cases of the outbreak strain of listeria, including the six deaths for which listeriosis was definitively the cause. Another 29 cases are under investigation, and PHAC expects additional cases to surface over the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, the Saskatchewan-based Merchant Law Group filed a class-action lawsuit against Maple Leaf, and hundreds of consumers joined the action within hours. A senior lawyer with the firm said if the case is won, total compensation could exceed hundreds of millions of dollars.

Canada: Food safety agency allowing producers to police themselves: ex-inspector
Last Updated: Wednesday, August 27, 2008 | 1:34 PM ET
CBC News
Source of Article:
Bob Kingston, a former inspector with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and now a union head, says food producers are increasingly taking on inspection duties. (CBC)
Federal inspectors are spending less time on the factory floor and relying more on food producers to monitor themselves, the head of the union for federal food safety inspectors said Wednesday.
Since March 31, food producers have been conducting their own tests for bacteria such as Listeria monocytogenes, and writing their own food safety reports, Bob Kingston, president of the Agriculture Union of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, told the CBC's Susan Bonner.
Canadian Food Inspection Agency inspectors have since had to deal with significantly more paperwork, which reduces their awareness of the everyday goings-on at meat-packing and processing facilities, said Kingston, formerly an inspector with the CFIA.
"The biggest concern from the [CFIA] inspection staff is simply the amount of time now they spend looking at reports and generating reports," said Kingston.
"And all of that means time off of the production floor."
Not enough attention was given to how the transition to the new procedures would affect the food inspection process, said Kingston.
"Basically there is a transition period where you know that things are going to be a little touch and go, and there probably should have been more resources put into the program, at least until there had been enough time to see how it worked."
A spokesman for the CFIA based in Ottawa wouldn't provide comment, but the agency has a news conference planned for later Wednesday.
Listeriosis a factor in at least 6 deaths
His comments come in the wake of a massive meat recall caused by a deadly outbreak of listeriosis.
As of Tuesday, there were 29 confirmed cases of listeriosis across Canada, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.
Of the 29, there are 15 confirmed deaths, mostly in Ontario but also one each in B.C., Saskatchewan and Quebec, the federal agency said. The listeria strain was determined to be the underlying or contributing factor in six of those 15 fatalities, while the deaths of the other nine patients, who had the bacterium in their system, are still under investigation to determine the exact cause, the agency said.
At the Maple Leaf Foods plant at the centre of the outbreak, the sole inspector overseeing the plant's health guidelines was left sifting through paperwork, said Kingston and the manager of the plant in an interview with the Globe and Mail on Tuesday.
Inspectors are now instructed more rigorously on how to spend their day, said Kingston.
"So it means they don't get to go to the place where they know there is the highest risk in plant, for instance, unless it happens to be on that schedule for the day," he said.
"It worries me that inspectors are reporting that they don't have the comfort level they once had."
Conservatives yet to reveal future food rules
A secret cabinet document leaked last month suggested the federal Conservatives want to hand over more inspection duties to industry as a part of future reforms.
The Tories, who haven't yet legislated any changes in food inspection policy, have not confirmed what their plans for reform would be.
They also haven't indicated that any changes have been made, besides hiring 200 new federal inspectors since their government took power in January 2006.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper told reporters Tuesday the food rules were in need of a "reform and revamp" after "some years of neglect."
Critics have increasingly voiced their concerns federal Conservatives' plans for food inspection reform.
Ontario Health Minister David Caplan said Tuesday he is concerned by the Tories' plan to shift more responsibility for food inspection to producers.
Last week, Liberal Leader Stephane Dion and Liberal agriculture critic Wayne Easter criticized the Tories for the possible changes, with Easter accusing the Tories of downloading responsibility for food inspection onto industry as a "cost-saving measure."

USDA Announces Proposed Rule to Ban All Non-Ambulatory Cattle from the Beef Supply
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Source of Article:
(American Meat Institute)USDA announced a proposed rule to completely ban the use of non-ambulatory cattle in the food supply.
¡°The proposed rule banning non-ambulatory cattle from the food supply will ensure long-term consumer confidence in the industry and our products,¡± said J. Patrick Boyle, president and CEO of the American Meat Institute.
Since early 2004, non-ambulatory cattle that arrive at packing plants have been prohibited from the meat supply. However, USDA has permitted animals that arrive ambulatory, pass veterinary inspection and become non-ambulatory because of acute injury to undergo a second inspection. On a case by case basis, some healthy, but non-ambulatory cattle have entered the meat supply with federal veterinary approval.
On April 22, AMI, together with the National Meat Association and the National Milk Producers Federation, petitioned USDA and asked the department to end the option to have a second inspection. To see a copy of the industry petition, go to:
Comments on the USDA proposal are due September 29, 2008
An advance copy of the proposed rule can be viewed at

FSIS launching new method of food safety assessments
By Tom Johnston on 8/25/2008
Source of Article:
USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service is rolling out a new methodology of conducting food safety assessments (FSAs) at 5,300 HACCP meat processing plants aimed at improving the consistency of inspections and documenting findings.
Under the new program, those plants can expect a random FSA at least once every four years, creating a set cycle for all plants, which had not been the case in the past.
A new set of questions also will provide a structure by which Enforcement, Investigations and Analysis Officers (EIAOs) can better collect data for input in a database. Those questions will be made available to processors by late September.
"I don't need a cookie-cutter approach to FSAs, but I need a certain structure that they don't have today," Ken Peterson, assistant administrator of FSIS's Office of Field Operations, told on the sidelines of National Meat Association's summer conference in Telluride, Colo.
Peterson said in the interview that his office is trying to prioritize visits based on risk. Between now and next summer, he said, the new method will be applied to the 700 to 800 plants that produce 95 percent of all commodities, from slaughter to canning. Meaning, the agency is starting with the largest establishments and will work its way down.
Listeria testing added
In addition, for those 2,400 or so plants that produce ready-to-eat product or other product at risk of harboring listeria monocytongenes, the FSAs will now include testing and sampling for that pathogen in plant areas including belts, drains and product, Peterson noted.
Previously, FSAs did not including pathogen sampling and testing. In-plant USDA inspectors conduct testing and sampling on a daily basis. FSAs, conducted by EIAOs, are broad inspections that assess all food safety aspects of a plant, including its products, processes and environment.
The new FSA methodology is part of an overall effort by FSIS to create uniformity of inspections. The initiative includes the implementation of a matrix with which FSIS officials can track the effectiveness of inspector training.

Researchers uncover molecule keeps pathogens like Salmonella in check

Science Centric | 23 August 2008 13:57 GMT
Source of Article:
Scientists at UT Southwestern Medical Centre have found a potential new way to stop the bacteria that cause gastroenteritis, tularemia and severe diarrhoea from making people sick. The researchers found that the molecule LED209 interferes with the biochemical signals that cause bacteria in our bodies to release toxins.
'What we have here is a completely novel approach to combating illness,' said Dr Vanessa Sperandio, associate professor of microbiology and biochemistry at UT Southwestern and senior author of a study available online 21 August and in a future issue of Science.
Though many antimicrobial drugs are already available, new ones are needed to combat the increasing microbial resistance to antibiotics. In addition, treating some bacterial infections with conventional antibiotics can cause the release of more toxins and may worsen disease outcome.
Scientists have known for decades that millions of potentially harmful bacteria exist in the human body, awaiting a signal that it's time to release their toxins. Without those signals, the bacteria pass through the digestive tract without infecting cells. What hasn't been identified is how to prevent the release of those toxins, a process that involves activating virulence genes in the bacteria.
In the new study, UT Southwestern researchers describe how LED209 blocks the bacterial receptor for these signals. In 2006, the UT Southwestern researchers were the first to identify the receptor QseC sensor kinase, which is found in the membrane of a diarrhoea-causing strain of Escherichia coli. This receptor receives signals from human flora and hormones in the intestine that cause the bacteria to initiate infection.
In studies in vitro, Dr Sperandio and her colleagues found that LED209 blocked the QseC sensors in E. coli, Salmonella and Francisella tularensis bacteria, preventing them from expressing virulence traits. Using mice models of infection, the researchers also showed that LED209 blocks pathogenesis of Salmonella and F. tularensis, preventing them from causing disease in these animals.
Though the researchers limited the study to three pathogens, they believe drugs that target QseC could have a broader spectrum because the sensor exists in at least 25 important animal and plant pathogens including Erwinia, which causes plant rot; Legionella pneumophila, which causes Legionnaires' disease; and Haemophilus influenzae, which causes lung infections.
Unlike conventional antibiotics, which work by killing bacteria, LED209 allows the pathogen to grow but not become virulent and make the host sick. Dr Sperandio said killing the bacteria or inhibiting their growth just 'angers' some bacteria and causes them to release toxins.
'The sensors in bacteria are waiting for the right signal to initiate the expression of virulent genes,' she said. 'Using LED209, we blocked those sensing mechanisms and basically tricked the bacteria to not recognise that they were within the host. When we did that, the bacterial pathogens could not effectively cause disease in the treated animals.'
Allowing the pathogen to survive also makes it less likely to develop resistance to medical treatments.
'What makes this current study unique is that we showed the drug working in three different pathogens,' Dr Sperandio said. 'Prior studies generally focused on one.'
In early 2008, UT Southwestern received a five-year, $6.5 million grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to develop a new antimicrobial compound to target bacterial pathogens such as Salmonella, E. coli and F. tularensis. Dr Sperandio is the principal investigator.
'Only a few new antibiotics have reached the market in recent years,' Dr Sperandio said. 'Because LED209 has never been used as an antibiotic, it's a completely different type of drug. In addition, its target, QseC, is also different from the current antimicrobial drug targets. This study demonstrates that LED209 has promise in fighting at least three pathogens and likely many more.'
Identifying LED209 was accomplished by using a high throughput screen of 150,000 compounds in UT Southwestern's Small Molecular Library. The screening process was set up to find molecules that wouldn't activate the virulence genes in a strain of E coli known as enterohemorrhagic E coli 0157:H7, or EHEC. Additional rounds of screening resulted in a pool of 75 potential inhibitors, from which LED209 was selected partly because of its potency.
The team's next step is to understand further LED209's structure and how it functions. The researchers plan to modify the drug to develop customised formulations.
'What we have right now works really well for systemic infections and it's very potent, but we also need non-absorbable molecules to treat noninvasive pathogens such as EHEC, which stays in the intestine,' Dr Sperandio said.
Other UT Southwestern researchers involved in this research were Dr Noelle Williams, assistant professor of biochemistry; Dr Ron Taussig, associate professor of pharmacology; Dr Michael Roth, professor of biochemistry; Dr John R. Falck, professor of biochemistry and pharmacology; Drs. Cristiano Moreira and Jason Huntley, both postdoctoral researchers in microbiology; Dr Run Li, postdoctoral research in biochemistry; Dr Shuguang Wei, senior research scientist in biochemistry; Maggy Fina, senior research associate in pharmacology; and student research assistants Nicola Reading and David Hughes. Dr David Rasko, former assistant professor of microbiology at UT Southwestern, was the lead author. Drs. Matthew Waldor and Jennifer Ritchie from Brigham and Women's Hospital also participated.
The work was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Ellison Medical Foundation, Burroughs Wellcome Fund, the Welch Foundation and UT Southwestern's High Impact/High Risk Research Program. UT Southwestern has filed a U.S. patent application on this technology. Source: UT Southwestern Medical Centre

Food bug might be adapting
Sanitation practices may no longer affect it, microbiologist says
SARAH SCHMIDT, Canwest News Service
Published: 12 hours ago Source of Article:
A deadly bacterium at the centre of a growing food-borne outbreak might have figured out how to get around the best sanitation practices at Canada's meat-processing plants, one of the country's top food microbiologists says.
Rick Holley of the University of Manitoba says Maple Leaf Foods Inc. probably uses the best practices to make sure its meat products are safe, but nonetheless the company didn't catch the listeria contamination that has led to one of the country's largest food recalls. Twelve deaths have been blamed on listeria.
"Maybe the organism that we're looking at right now in this outbreak might be adapted to some peculiar way to have a higher tolerance to the sanitation activities, to the sanitation agents that are being used," Holley said.
"That would be unusual, but it's possible," said Holley, who chairs an international panel of experts on food safety management systems.
The team of 10 charged with food safety at the Toronto plant takes 3,000 swabs annually and analyzes them at the plant's in-house microbiology laboratory, looking for bacteria like Listeria monocytogenes, which can be deadly if they cling to food products and multiply as they sit on store shelves.
In this case, a government inspector stationed at the same plant also did not detect any gaps in the company's sanitation protocols that allowed the bacterium to grow; the cooking process kills listeria, but unlike most organisms, it likes salt and nitrate and can grow at refrigeration temperatures.
"We need to look very carefully at the effectiveness of what we consider to be acceptable programs in addressing this particular organism," Holley said.
"Normally, one could expect that such activities would detect the organism, but it will hide anywhere. Where you have a regular maintenance program for equipment combined with a regular sanitation program, you should be able to cover this off. The problem is the organism is coming in to the plant all the time and it's able under normal circumstances to survive in the meat plant and grow. We know that and Maple Leaf knows it ,too, and the only thing to address it is to put in place programs that will protect us," Holley said.
But the current outbreak is a signal that listeria, a type of bacterium often found in food and elsewhere in the natural environment, is currently able to crack through the best food-safety protocols in meat and cheese plants, he said.
"It probably gets through quite a bit. Is there more we can do? Yes, there is, but there are limits."
Lynn McMullen, a food microbiologist at the University of Alberta, says what makes the current outbreak so unusual is Maple Leaf Foods is "very good" at food-safety management.
"The organism had to be there somehow. It could be in a drain, it could be on a human, it could be any place, but often they target the drains because they'll find them in the drains. How that organism got from a drain to a food product is very difficult to figure out. This is something that is very unusual - it doesn't happen every day."
But McMullen said it's "very unlikely" we're looking at a superbug scenario comparable to a hospital setting.
"These organisms are everywhere in the environment. They don't need to adapt. The ones at the hospitals are adapting to antibiotic pressure. These guys don't have that kind of pressure. We don't do that in our food processing plants, so it's not a matter of them becoming a superbug in the same sense that the organisms in the hospitals are becoming. They're just a really resistant organism. They always have been, but the processors know how to deal with it, so this is a rare occurrence. I don't have any real quick and dirty 'Here's what they should have done' answers, because they just don't exist."
Richard Arsenault, who oversees meat inspection for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, says he's not aware of red flags raised by any government inspector about the Maple Leaf plant.
"You have to make sure everything is basically spotless and is impeccable, probably cleaner than a surgical ward."
In this case, public-health officials first picked up there was a possible problem with food contamination last month when listeriosis cases started popping up in unusually high numbers of patients.
The rare but serious disease hits the elderly or people with a weakened immune system particularly hard; in serious cases, it can lead to brain infection and death.
Pregnant women are also vulnerable because infections can lead to miscarriage or stillbirth.

USDA Schedules Public Meeting on AMI Petition to Use Low Dose Irradiation as Beef Processing Aid
Friday, August 22, 2008
Source of Article:
(American Meat Institute)
The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has scheduled a public meeting on what action it should take with respect to a petition from the American Meat Institute which requests that FSIS recognize the use of low penetration and low dose electron beam irradiation on the surface of chilled beef carcasses as a processing aid. The petition was submitted in 2005. The meeting will be held September 18, 2008, at a "to be announced" location.
Individuals interested in attending the meeting are required to register at
The July 8, 2005, petition, titled "Citizens Petition To Recognize the Use of E-Beam on Carcasses as a Processing Aid," filed by the American Meat Institute is posted at
The agenda for the September 18, 2008, FSIS "Low Dose Irradiation in Beef" meeting is posted at

Iceberg lettuce and spinach safe to irradiate, says FDA
Source of Article:
By Jane Byrne
22-Aug-2008 -
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of irradiation to kill food-poisoning germs in iceberg lettuce and fresh spinach from today, claiming the technology will not adversely affect the safety of these products.
The decision follows recalls related to lettuce and the spinach linked E. coli outbreak that killed three people and sickened more than 200 in September 2006.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), the trade association for global food and beverage companies, first petitioned the FDA nine years ago to extend the number of products that could be irradiated.
Irradiation exposes foods to ionizing radiation that kills insects, moulds and bacterium.
The technology, which can kill up to 99 per cent of pathogens, is seen by the industry as a means of ensuring food safety and extending shelf life and it claims that newer techniques eradicate the problem of leafy greens being left limp by the radiation process.
The US regulator has already determined that meat, poultry, molluscan shellfish and dried spices can be irradiated for safety in the US.


The FDA said the safety of irradiation of other types of lettuce remains under review, while fresh iceberg lettuce and fresh spinach that has undergone irradiation must bear the radura logo along with the statement ¡®treated with radiation¡¯ or ¡®treated by irradiation¡¯.
According to the agency, bagged iceberg lettuce and spinach can be irradiated if the packaging material has been approved for such use.


Science Policy Analyst at the Centre for Food Safety, Bill Freese, argues that irradiation will rob fresh spinach of some of its essential nutrients and he claims the technology avoids tackling the problem at its source. "Irradiation is not the solution to food-borne illness," said Freese. "In fact, it serves to distract attention from the unsanitary conditions of industrial agriculture that create the problem in the first place."

Global perspective

While irradiation is slowly gaining consumer acceptance in the US and several other countries, the technology has been slow to get support within many parts of Europe.
To date, about 50 countries have approved about 60 products to be irradiated, with the US, South Africa, the Netherlands, Thailand and France among the leaders in adopting the technology. However, regulations on food irradiation in the European Union are currently not fully harmonised. Directive 1999/2/EC establishes a framework for controlling irradiated foods, their labelling and importation, while Directive 1999/3 establishes an initial positive list of foods which may be irradiated and traded freely between member states. So far the positive list has only one food category - dried aromatic herbs, spices and vegetable seasonings. Some countries, such as Belgium, France, the Netherlands and the UK, allow other foods to be irradiated.

WHO analysis

A World Health Organisation (WHO) scientific report in 1992 found that irradiation posed no risk to human health:
"On the basis of the extensive scientific evidence reviewed, the report concludes that food irradiated to any dose appropriate to achieve the intended technological objective is both safe to consume and nutritionally adequate.
"The experts further conclude that no upper dose limit need be imposed, and that irradiated foods are deemed wholesome throughout the technologically useful dose range from below 10 kGy (gamma ray) to envisioned doses above 10 kGy,¡± the report stated.

National co-operation needed on food safety
The Gazette
Published: Friday, August 22
Source of Article:
A nationwide outbreak of food poisoning, possibly connected to contaminated meat products, has led people across Canada to ask just how well protected Canadians are when it comes to food-borne (and other) threats to public health.
To date, one person, in Ontario, has died from a strain of listeriosis that health officials think might be linked to bacteria found at a Maple Leaf Foods plant in Toronto. Officials have confirmed 17 other listeriosis cases - 13 in Ontario, two in British Columbia and one each in Quebec and Saskatchewan - and believe more will be found.
The link between the food poisoning and its likely cause was made thanks to Ontario's post-SARS tracking and information system, Dr. David C. Williams, Ontario's chief medical officer of health, told
It is hardly surprising that Ontario - the province hardest hit by the 2003 SARS outbreak - would set up a detection system, but Quebecers and others will be shocked to learn that no other province has done so.
This listeriosis case does not, of course, compare with the SARS epidemic, which killed 44 people in Toronto alone. But the fact remains that this outbreak will be contained because of the system put in place after the SARS scare. Post-SARS, Ontario set up a formal system to share "epidemiologic information" with other provinces and the federal government.
But in the absence of information from other provinces, the Public Health Agency of Canada cannot systematically analyze information. It cannot detect a pattern in data it doesn't receive.
This needs to be corrected. All jurisdictions should see the obvious advantages of sharing information about public health risks with each other and with Ottawa. The need for a central registry seems obvious.
Meanwhile, this case will also raise some questions in the public mind about planned changes to the federal meat-inspection system. An agriculture department document is reported to have outlined a plan to leave meat inspectors with only "an oversight role." Industry would implement and run food safety control programs.
That might be fine. This problem, after all, occured before this change was made. No system is perfect.
Whatever the rules, industry has a strong interest in selling healthy products, as Maple Leaf's vigorous, transparent effort this week demonstrates. But Canadians expect full explanations, and the assurance that the public interest comes first.
On food safety, Canadians will want redundant measures to make sure we are in no danger. And who can blame us for that?

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