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Likely Source of Listeria Contamination Identified

by 5m Editor
8 September 2008, at 11:52a.m.

CANADA - Maple Leaf Foods on 5 September provided an update on its investigation into the likely cause of a <em>Listeria monocytogenes</em> contamination at its plant in Toronto, Ontario.


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"Throughout this crisis we have done whatever it takes to place our consumers' interests and public health first. It's now up to us to earn back your confidence."
Michael McCain, President and CEO of Maple Leaf Foods

After careful study of the records, the physical plant and product test results received from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), internal and external experts have concluded that the most likely source was a possible collection point for bacteria located deep inside the mechanical operations of two slicing machines on lines 8 and 9. Rigorous sanitization of this equipment was completed on a daily basis in accordance with or exceeding the equipment manufacturer's recommendations. However, upon full disassembly, areas were found where bacteria may accumulate deep inside the slicing machines and avoid the sanitization process. There were also other environmental factors, not on product contact surfaces, that may have contributed to the contamination.

"We deeply regret this incident and the impact it has had on people's lives," said Michael McCain, President and CEO. "We have the highest food safety standards and we have worked around the clock and left no stone unturned to identify the root cause and eliminate the source of this contamination. Throughout this crisis we have done whatever it takes to place our consumers' interests and public health first. It's now up to us to earn back your confidence."

"We are fully co-operating with the CFIA as they continue their investigation and conduct due diligence and verification. The plant will not re-open and no products will be released until the CFIA and Maple Leaf are confident in the effectiveness of the enhanced food safety protocols in place," continued Mr McCain.

Maple Leaf voluntarily shut down all operations at the plant on 20 August. Maple Leaf implemented a voluntary recall of all 191 products made at the Bartor Road plant from January 1st to present. Subsequent testing of recalled products show no listeria contamination was present in any products other than the three products manufactured on the two lines involved. Since then a comprehensive investigation and deep sanitization of the plant has been completed, working closely with the CFIA.

The following immediate actions have been taken:

  • Working with customers, Maple Leaf quickly completed the recall of products from retail store shelves, which is being followed up with visual inspections of customer shelves. All food-service products from customer and distribution warehouses have been recalled.
  • The slicing equipment on lines 8 and 9 at the plant have been completely dismantled and deep-cleaned, with multiple tests conducted to ensure they are cleared of any contamination. Similar slicing equipment across the Company's other plants has also been deep-cleaned and tested, and will continue to be done regularly.
  • The Bartor Road facility has undergone five intensive rounds of sanitation and extensive testing throughout the plant to ensure the sanitization is complete and effective.
    The Company has increased the depth and frequency of its already rigorous testing and sanitation procedures across all its meat plants.

Further Reading

- Go to our previous news item on this story by clicking here.

5m Editor