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Maple Leaf apologises again for listeria outbreak

By Rory Harrington , 25-Aug-2009

Maple Leaf Foods Inc placed full page advertisements in a number of Canadian newspapers yesterday to mark the one-year anniversary of the fatal listeriosis outbreak.

The company’s meat products were found to be the cause of a nationwide contamination alert that killed almost two dozen and sickened hundreds.

Never forget

In an open letter, company chief Michael McCain said: “It was a year ago that some of our products were linked to a listeriosis outbreak that caused the death of 22 Canadians. The friends and family of these people will never forget and neither will we.”

McCain vowed Maple Leaf was committed to “becoming a global leader in food safety to prevent this kind of a tragedy from ever happening again”.

"On behalf of our 24,000 employees, we promise to never forget,” he added.

The company has apologized previously and paid out millions of dollars in damages for the August 2008 outbreak that resulted in listeria contamination of meats from its Toronto plant.

Listeria joke

The move coincided with a high-ranking Maple Leaf executive being forced to issue his own apology after being caught on camera joking about the listeria outbreak.

Vice-president of government and industry relations Rory McApine admitted that a joke he made about the outbreak at a conference at the Couchiching Institute of Public Affairs on August 8 was not appropriate.

The Maple Leaf executive expressed his regret after a clip of his speech was posted on a social networking site and condemned by food safety expert Doug Powell, of Kansas State University.

“I want to sincerely apologise…for the joke with which I began my comments at the Conference earlier in August,” said McApline. “These were my personal remarks, and I appreciate in hindsight they were not appropriate given the Listeriosis outbreak and the death and illness it caused. I didn’t in any way mean to make light of this tragedy and I feel terrible that my early remarks conveyed a callousness that I don’t feel.”

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