Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Listeriosis outbreak in Canada


As of yesterday, there were 29 confirmed cases of listeriosis in Canada, including 15 deaths, all linked to tainted meat from Maple Leaf Foods.

On August 19th, Maple Leaf Foods, one of Canada’s largest food processors, announced the recall of more than 23 meat products after finding the food-borne bacterium Listeria Monocytogenes on their products in their facility in North York, Ontario.

The listeria bacteria has been found to be the contributing factor in the deaths of 6 of the 15 cases and the other 9 are still being investigated.

Listeria is the bacteria responsible for listeriosis, a rare but fatal food-borne infection. The bacteria is found in soil, sewage, water and the feces of animals and humans. It can also be found in unpasteurized dairy products, raw meats and processed foods like deli meats and hot dogs. Eating foods contaminated with listeria can result in brain and blood infections as well as death.

More recently, the company upgraded its recall of 23 Maple Leaf Products to all 220 of its packaged meat products from their North York processing plant (all stamped with 97B before the best before date), representing a loss of $20 million, so far, for the company.

The Maple Leaf sliced meats that were recalled were being served by McDonald’s and Mr. Sub restaurants, as well as supplied to grocery stores under the Schneiders and Sure Slice brands. Many commercial kitchens, including hospitals, nursing homes and camps for kids, used these products as well.
Other companies that use Maple Leaf meat products have voluntarily recalled their products, including Fresh 2 Go sandwiches from A&P and Dominion, Shopsey’s Reuben sandwiches and Mac’s and Safeway sandwiches.

Most of the listeriosis cases have been in Ontario and Quebec, although people in Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan have also been affected.

It can take up to 70 days after having consumed the contaminated product for symptoms to appear, therefore the number of cases is expected to rise. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, persistent fever, severe headache, stiff neck, loss of balance and convulsions. Individuals that are most vulnerable include infants, pregnant women, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.

Maple Leaf President Michael McCain had this to say:
"Tragically, our products have been linked to illness and loss of life. To those people who are ill, and to the families who have lost loved ones, I offer my deepest and sincerest sympathies."

Sources:

Nationwide outbreak spurs massive meat recall. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080820.wmeatrecall0820/BNStory/National/?page=rss&id=RTGAM.20080820.wmeatrecall0820

2008 Canadian Listeriosis Outbreak. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2008_Canadian_listeriosis_outbreak#cite_note-9

Sources of Canadian listeria outbreak confirmed. http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5jFh1ZPafbsYsSCSlq5v5-chCcDcw

Class action lawsuit launched over listeria outbreak. http://www.cbc.ca/canada/british-columbia/story/2008/08/26/bc-listeria-class-action-lawsuit.html?ref=rss

Listeria FAQ. http://www.cbc.ca/consumer/story/2008/08/21/f-listeria-faqs.html

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