Maple Leaf still clearing plant of listeria

by Staff
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TORONTO — Maple Leaf Foods has found some positive test results for listeria in its Bartor Road facility, but no products have been distributed.

The facility was closed on Aug. 20 due to listeria concerns after an outbreak, and the plant reopened on Sept. 17. Maple Leaf and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency have provided oversight to the facility to determine the effectiveness of food safety protocols. Since the plant’s reopening, 841 environmental samples have been taken with one positive result for listeria, and the company is pleased with this result because it is lower than what normal practice would yield in listeria management programs.

"Listeria exists in all food plants, all supermarkets and presumably in all kitchens," said Michael McCain, president and chief executive officer. "Our testing protocols are designed to find positive results so we can remediate them immediately. The Bartor Road team has found a very small number of positive results, not unexpectedly, and is reacting exactly according to food safety protocols.

"While there is no risk to the public, we are behaving in the most conservative way possible according to the protocols in how these findings are always to be handled."

Products also have been tested and subject to a hold and release protocol where composite product samples are tested for Listeria monocytogenes and held based on confirmation of negative results before being cleared for distribution. Over 5,000 product tests have been completed with only four positive results found. As a result, distribution of products from the Bartor Road facility is being halted until these findings are confirmed.

"We are being ultra-cautious in this facility, more cautious than any other plant in North America," Mr. McCain said. "Under the circumstances, we consider this to be an appropriate action plan. Listeriosis is an exceptionally rare illness, but we are taking every precaution possible."

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