The death toll in the listeria outbreak blamed on Maple Leaf Foods stands at 18, Canada’s health authorities say.

They confirmed that the Sept. 8th death of a British Columbia woman matched the national outbreak strain.

The listeria bacterium was found embedded deep inside slicing equipment at Maple Leaf’s Toronto plant. The plant was closed Aug. 20th, but was just allowed to re-open after cleaning.

Meanwhile, the outbreak brought out some deadly Canadian humor from Gerry Ritz, the agriculture minister.  The New York Times reported it this way.

“This is like a death by a thousand cuts. Or should I say cold cuts?” Mr. Ritz said during a conference call with about 30 bureaucrats, scientists and political officials on Aug. 30.

Later, when someone on the call indicated that there may be a death on Prince Edward Island, Mr. Ritz said, “Please, tell me it’s Wayne Easter.” Mr. Easter, a member of Parliament from that province, is the agriculture critic for the opposition Liberal party.

Some want Ritz to resign or be fired, including the son of one of the elderly women who died.  Check out the rest of the NYT story on the jokesters up north here. Our man Ritz is in the picture.