Canada to boost food plant listeria tests: report

Fri Nov 7, 2008 1:57pm EST
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada plans to introduce tougher rules for listeria testing in food plants after a fatal outbreak linked to sliced meats produced at a Maple Leaf Foods Inc facility, Canadian media said on Friday.

The Toronto Star and the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. said the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) would demand tighter surveillance and greater transparency. At least 20 deaths have been linked to contaminated deli meats that came from a Maple Leaf plant in Toronto.

After an extensive investigation, the company said it believed two slicers at the plant had been harboring the listeria bacteria.

The CFIA did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

The Toronto Star said the CFIA wanted staff at meat plants to test counter tops and meat slicers at least once a week. CFIA inspectors would test ready-to-eat meat products at least three times a year, it added.

The agency would also oblige firms to report a trend of positive tests for listeria to the CFIA. That obligation had been dropped in April, prompting critics to accuse the Conservative government of cutting corners when it came to food safety.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Rob Wilson)