Maple Leaf takes blame for food poison outbreak

Wed Aug 27, 2008 6:37pm EDT
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By Leah Schnurr and Roberta Rampton

TORONTO/WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - The head of Canada's biggest meat processor said on Wednesday his company was fully accountable for a nationwide outbreak of listeriosis food poisoning, which has been linked to deaths of 15 people.

"The buck stops right here," Maple Leaf Foods Inc <MFI.TO Chief Executive told a news conference.

"We have excellent systems and processes in place but this week it's our best efforts that failed -- not the regulators, not the Canadian food safety system," McCain said.

"I emphasize this is our accountability and it's ours to fix, which we are taking on fully."

Samples of two deli meats produced at a Maple Leaf processing plant in Toronto tested positive for the same strain of listeria bacteria that has made dozens of Canadians sick this summer, including 15 people who have since died.

The company, which faces a series of class action suits, has withdrawn all 220 or so products made at the plant as a precaution in one of Canada's biggest-ever food recalls.

The meats were shipped to nursing homes and hospitals as well as to restaurants and stores.

McCain said he did not know when the company would reopen the Toronto plant, one of 23 it operates. Originally, the plant was to have reopened on Tuesday, then on Thursday.   Continued...

<p>A sign for the Maple Leaf food processing plant is seen in Toronto August 21, 2008. REUTERS/Mark Blinch</p>