6 deaths linked to tainted meat in Canada

August 25, 2008 6:39:07 PM PDT
Public health officials in Canada confirmed Monday that two more deaths have been attributed to a deadly bacterial outbreak linked to tainted meat. Six people, all of them from Ontario, have now died of listeriosis as a result of the outbreak, said Dr. Mark Raizenne, director-general of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Listeriosis is a type of food poisoning that can be dangerous to the elderly, newborns, pregnant women and people with chronic medical conditions. Symptoms include fever, headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea.

Raizenne said that an additional six deaths are still under investigation with a total of 26 cases under review.

Test results announced over the weekend have linked the outbreak with ready-to-eat meat produced by Maple Leaf Foods that was tainted with the Listeria bacterium. Maple Leaf has recalled 220 forms of meat products, as well as everything made at the company's Toronto plant.

Maple Leaf sells products in several countries but the company said the recall for tainted meat is limited to Canada.

Maple Leaf, with revenues of more than $4.95 billion, said Monday that it's bracing for a decline in sales on top of the $19-million product recall.

In newspaper and television ads released this weekend, Maple Leaf CEO Michael McCain apologized.

"We have an unwavering commitment to keeping your food safe with standards well beyond regulatory requirements, but this week our best efforts failed and we are deeply sorry," McCain said in the ad, which was also posted on Internet sites.

Officials with the Public Health Agency of Canada said Monday that Canadians should remain on guard for at least a few more weeks, given listeriosis' lengthy incubation of up to 70 days.

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On the Net: Maple Leaf has posted a full list of products affected on the company's web site www.mapleleaf.ca.


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