For its year-after editorial about the Maple Leaf listeria outbreak that killed 22 mostly elderly Canadians living in provincial long-term care facilities or hospitals, the Vancouver Sun sought out some experts.
The newspaper waned to know if Canada’s food was safer after all those who died after consuming deli meats contaminated with listeria produced at a government-inspected plant.
“And on the eve of the one-year mark of the outbreak, the verdict is still out on how far we’ve come to improve the food-safety system in the intervening year.
“Oh, hell no,” Rick Holley, University of Manitoba microbiologist and member of the academic advisory panel at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, says bluntly when asked if we’re better off.
Mansell Griffiths, director of the Canadian Research Institute for Food Safety, is more measured, but hardly makes a definitive pronouncement about the shape we’re in today.
“In some respects yes, in some respects no,” says Griffiths, a professor in food science at the University of Guelph.
“There’s no doubt more rigorous tracking of listeria and sophisticated sanitation protocols are in place at Canada’s federally regulated meat plants, where operators were shaken by the realization that steps taken at Maple Leaf Foods Inc., an industry leader in food safety, weren’t as good as they needed to be to deal with the ubiquitous bacterium.
“But the agency is still wrestling with a resource problem that sees one meat inspector responsible for an average of five facilities, while struggling with a new oversight system that favours auditing of company paperwork over time on the plant floor.”
Read the rest in the Sun.