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WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - Maple Leaf Foods Inc has started distributing meat from the Toronto plant associated with an outbreak of listeriosis food poisoning after getting clearance from health officials, a company spokeswoman said on Tuesday.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency will continue to require samples of all meat from the plant to test negative for the bacteria before the company can distribute it, spokeswoman Linda Smith said.
"Any product that is appropriate for distribution and has been cleared by the hold and release program ... that product is going into distribution," she said.
Contaminated deli meats from the Toronto plant were linked to at least 20 deaths this year. After an extensive investigation, the company, one of Canada's largest meat processors, said it believed two slicers at the plant had been harboring the bacteria.
The plant was shut down for a month, and then was permitted to operate while health officials tested samples of all meat produced.
Two weeks ago, regulators found four samples of meat that tested positive for the bacteria, all from one of the plant's 12 production lines.
That production line is not currently operating, Smith said. Testing of meat from all other lines has been consistently negative, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said on its website.
Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Peter Galloway