Maple Leaf confirmed source of deadly Canada meat

Sat Aug 23, 2008 10:57pm EDT
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TORONTO (Reuters) - A food poisoning outbreak that has killed four Canadians and sickened at least 21 others has been genetically linked to meat produced at a plant owned by Maple Leaf Foods Inc, authorities said on Saturday.

The company, one of Canada's biggest meat processors, had been considered the likely source of the deli-style meat that had been contaminated by listeria bacteria.

Maple Leaf had already voluntarily recalled more than 20 varieties of meat products made at its Toronto plant in June.

On Saturday, it extended the recall to all products from the plant, which has stopped production.

Most of the products were sold to restaurants, including McDonald's Corp, as well as to hospitals, nursing homes and deli counters in several Canadian provinces.

The products were not exported.

Listeriosis is particularly dangerous for pregnant women, the elderly, infants, and people with weak immune systems. Three deaths were in Ontario and one in British Columbia.

Listeria bacteria are common, and a minuscule amount coming into contact with deli meats can thrive and multiply, even in a refrigerator, health authorities say.

The Public Health Agency of Canada, which announced the results of genetic tests that linked the Maple Leaf plant to the outbreak, said the results suggested the investigation was on the right path but far from complete.   Continued...

<p>A man works to sterilize meat processing and packaging equipment at the Maple Leaf Foods plant in Toronto August 21, 2008. REUTERS/Mark Blinch</p>