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Maple Leaf Hit With More Bad News

Maple Leaf Foods says sanitary conditions at its Toronto plant that was the source of the deadly listeria outbreak in 2008 have improved greatly.

There have been no recalls of products or orders to withhold deli meats from the market, says Maple Leaf spokeswoman Linda Smith.

A Canadian Press story, citing documents obtained under Access to Information, says Canadian Food Inspection Agency inspectors in October 2008 found mould, slime and meat debris on equipment as well as employees operating in a manner inconsistent with proper food safety.

Randy Huffman, the company‘ s chief food safety officer, said in a statement Nov. 10 that Maple Leaf put in place more than 200 new standard operating procedures after the listeria outbreak but it took workers time to learn them.

The company’s approach to food safety has continuously improved, he said. The detailed inspections by CFIA provided “an early indicator of potential issues in the plant that need to be corrected. And we corrected them. Immediately,” he said.

Since those inspections, Maple Leaf has invested more than $5 million in upgrades at the plant. “This includes repair of floors and wall surfaces, air-handling systems, caulking, better separation of raw and cooked areas of the plant, new pallets and new slicing and packaging equipment.”

CFIA did not comment directly on the contents of the CP report, but spokesman Guy Gravelle said in an e-mail Nov. 10 that the agency continues “to conduct regular on-site inspection of the plant, including the plant environment, the production processes and the plant equipment, through a series of verification tasks.”

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