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China bans meats from Maple Leaf

In the latest instalment from the Maple Leaf listeria contamination, China has joined Mexico in banning the import of food products from the Canadian meat processor.  


September 2, 2008
By National Post

September 2, 2008

OTTAWA – China has become the latest country to stop Maple Leaf Foods meat imports, according to a spokesman from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency yesterday.


The move comes as Canadian public health officials confirmed at a news conference that the 12th death from the listeria outbreak occurred in Ontario.

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No details on the victim were given.


Seven more deaths — five in Ontario, one in Saskatchewan and one in Quebec — are still under investigation by the Public Health Agency of Canada to determine if they were a result of the same strain of Listeria monocytogenes.


In total, there are a 38 confirmed cases and 21 suspected cases of listeriosis nationwide. On Sunday there were 33 confirmed cases and 25 suspected cases. These cases are at the centre of a massive tainted deli-meat recall by Maple Leaf Foods Ltd.


The company, Canada's largest meat processor, first recalled the ready-to-eat meats on Aug. 17 after the bacterium listeria was found in its Toronto plant.

Since then, more than 200 products have been recalled after deaths started to be linked to the outbreak, affecting hundreds of fast-food outlets and retailers across the country.


The outbreak, which led to the closure of the Toronto meat processing plant, has also resulted in China informing Canadian officials late last week that it will no longer be accepting any more imports of sausage casings from Maple Leaf Foods over fears that it was contaminated with listeria.


But Paul Mayers, a CFIA spokesman, said the sausage casings in question are produced at another meat plant and are not affected by the potentially deadly bacterium.


"The plant where the sausage casings are made are not impacted by the listeria recall," he said. "We're working with China to explain to them that the plant impacted was not exporting products. We will work quickly with them to resolve the issue."


Last week, Mexico was the first country to stop imports of Maple Leaf Foods meats over the same miscommunication, Mr. Mayers said. Officials are also working it out with that country.


Mr. Mayers said he does not expect other countries to halt imports from Maple Leaf Foods. "I would not expect that this is a matter of routine," he said. "What you see here is that there is lack of complete understanding. It is our standard practice to immediately recall any recalled products where they are here in Canada or elsewhere."


Mr. Mayers said he also does not anticipate any changes for Canadian meat exporters at the U. S. border, as was the case last year.


The U. S. government temporarily ramped up testing last November for listeria and salmonella in ready-to-eat deli meat imports from Canada, beginning after an annual audit by its Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) showed multiple violations of food-safety protocols at Canadian meat plants.


The Maple Leaf Foods plant in Toronto, the source of the current listeria outbreak, was not included in the audit.


The increase of product exams — at the rate of about double that of the past year — was in place for a few weeks before the FSIS returned to normal levels of testing.


Mr. Mayers said the results of the 2008 audit, conducted in the spring and yet to be released publicly by the U. S. Department of Agriculture, were positive. He said the Americans were "quite satisfied and were quite complimentary" of the way the new Compliance Verification System is working.


The CFIA brought in the new inspection system on March 31; government inspectors at meat plants now play a role that resembles an auditor of a company's records.