As the Public Health Agency of Canada determined this week that the worst of the listeriosis outbreak traced to contaminated meat produced at a Maple Leaf Foods Inc. plant is likely over, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that his government will conduct a federal investigation of the situation.
The outbreak, which began in mid-August, has been implicated in 19 deaths and several incidents of foodborne illness.
Maple Leaf has moved aggressively and publicly to handle the matter. Chief executive officer and president Michael McCain issued an apology in newspaper and television advertisements and via news conferences, and Maple Leaf closed the plant and retained independent experts to try to determine exactly what happened and how to prevent it from reoccurring. The plant, which produces deli and other processed meats, remained closed today for the third week.
The company also recalled all products produced at the plant this year even though the bacteria was traced to only two lines of the multi-line plant, a recall that will cost the company an estimated $20 million (Canadian).
The company has received considerable praise for its actions but already faces several class action lawsuits. Furthermore, its Maple Leaf brand, an iconic Canadian label, may be irrevocably damaged, according to marketing specialists. One suggested that the company may need to retire the brand and start marketing under a new label.