February 24, 2009 / 1:50 PM / in 9 years

UPDATE 4-Maple Leaf recalls more meat, trims loss

* Q4 loss C$0.12/shr vs loss C$0.17/shr a year earlier

* Sales C$1.34 billion vs C$1.27 billion

* Recall costs C$59 mln to C$69 mln

* Recalls 1,100 cases of hot dogs

* Shares rise 3.3 pct (Recasts with company comments. Updates share price)

By Scott Anderson

TORONTO, Feb 24 (Reuters) - Maple Leaf Foods (MFI.TO) recalled more meat products on Tuesday over concerns of listeria bacteria, the same day that it reported a smaller quarterly loss and said the worst of a costly listeria-related recall last summer was behind it.

The company announced a voluntary recall of 1,100 cases of its Shopsy’s All Beef Frankfurters and Maple Leaf Original Hot Dogs, and said that last summer’s listeriosis outbreak cost it as much as C$69 million ($55.6 million) before taxes in the fourth quarter.

Maple Leaf Foods, one of Canada’s largest food processors, said the hot dogs and frankfurters recalled on Tuesday were produced at its plant in Hamilton, Ontario, and were shipped in violation of its food safety standards. It said “human error” was behind the incident.

It said there had been no illness reported as a result of consumption of the products and the risk to human health is extremely low.

Last summer, contaminated deli meats from a Maple Leaf food processing plant in Toronto were linked to at least 20 deaths. After an extensive investigation, the company said it believed two slicers at the plant had been harboring the listeria bacteria.

Earlier this month it reached a tentative C$25 million settlement in a series of class-action lawsuits related to the listeriosis outbreak.

Michael McCain, the company’s president and chief executive, said Maple Leaf’s more rigorous checks resulted in the most recent recall.

“We made the commitment to this level of testing,” he said during a conference call with analysts. “It’s reasonable to expect that with this level of testing and with this type of rigor in these protocols, that situations either by design or by erroneously may happen from time to time.”

Earlier on Tuesday, the company said its loss in the fourth quarter narrowed to C$14.6 million, or 12 Canadian cents a share, from a loss of C$22.1 million, or 17 Canadian cents a share, in the year-before quarter when the company was hit by soaring wheat prices, a strong Canadian currency and restructuring costs.

Excluding costs resulting from last summer’s recall and subsequent restructuring, the company said it earned 12 Canadian cents a share, down from 20 Canadian cents a share.

Sales rose to C$1.34 billion from C$1.27 billion.

Analysts on average had expected a profit of 8 Canadian cents a share before items and revenue of C$1.31 billion, according to Reuters Estimates.

“It came in pretty much in line with what I was expecting and what I think a lot of people were expecting,” said Robert Gibson, an analyst at Octagon Capital.

Maple Leaf shares closed up 3.3 percent at C$9.43 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Tuesday.

$1=$1.24 Canadian Reporting by Scott Anderson; Editing by Peter Galloway

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