While the death toll in Canada continues to rise in the wake of a listeriosis outbreak that resulted from tainted meat being distributed from a Maple Leaf processing plant in the Toronto, residents in Rimbey have no need to worry, particularly in the case of two prominent sandwich shops in the community.
As of last Thursday, 15 people across the country had died as a result of consuming the meat products in question and another 14 people were confirmed to also be suffering from the effects of listeriosis.
Those numbers are expected to rise in the next several weeks as symptoms of the disease may not appear for up to 70 days following consumption.
As for the situation locally, Allen Adam, owner/operator of the Subway outlet in Rimbey said his restaurant doesn’t receive any meat products from Maple Leaf.
“Subway Canada has nothing to do with the recall,” he said. “It was in Subways in the United States only. Subway has sent us some letters to put up for the public to read clarifying that fact and they’re welcome to come in and read the letters.”
Adam said he has had several inquiries from the public regarding the recall of certain meat products but quickly calmed their concerns.
“We’ve had a lot of customers coming into the store and are asking about things, but we weren’t affected up here,” Adam said. “Subways in Canada don’t buy meats from Maple Leaf whatsoever.”
He credited his parent company for taking a pro-active approach to the crisis and added that Subway requires all of its operators to post any information that may be of interest to the public when it involves their food products.
“They’re right on top of it and made sure we knew right away that the food people were eating was safe here,” said Adam who has operated the local outlet for just six months.
The situation was a bit different at the GTI in Rimbey, which in addition to selling processed sandwiches also sells a number of varieties of in-house sandwiches.
According to owner/operator Richard Ramsay, two beef roasts were purchased however they were known to have come from the Toronto plant and were immediately taken out of the system and returned to the supplier.
“We ordered some products through Cisco out of Calgary and we had drawn a couple of roasts that we hadn’t cut and they phoned and said they had a recall on it,” Ramsay said. “It actually wasn’t marked Maple Leaf, but it was a product out of some strain of Maple Leaf. We pulled them, we’re sending them back and that’s the total of our effect so far.”
As for the pre-packagesdvariety of sandwiches, he said he has been in close contact with his suppliers and according to them, those types of sandwiches are also fine for public consumption.
“We checked with them and they said there wasn’t a problem and that their suppliers of meat weren’t from Maple Leaf but they said they were monitoring the situation,” Ramsay said.
He added that while he has received nothing in the way of concerns from the public, Ramsay was quick to give credit to the federal government’s inspection agency and his suppliers for their quick response to the situation.
“I think the professionalism of all the parties involved has been really good,” he said. “They showed good timing on their alertness and I think everything’s worked well, at least from what I’ve seen and it’s all for the safety of our public.
Listeriosis is caused by infection from the listeria monocytogenes bacteria. The outbreak originated from lines 8 and 9 of the Maple Leaf Foods Bartor Road facility in North York, Ontario, a neighborhood in Toronto.
According to the company, there are about 220 possibly contaminated products, each stamped with the code “97B” near the “Best before” date. Since the bacteria traveled through deli meats, which are cooked (and as a result are usually free of pathogens), the contamination likely occurred during packaging. The outbreak was first noticed in July when regular surveillance detected an increase in cases reported.
Those most vulnerable to the outbreak include infants, pregnant women, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.
Four separate class-action lawsuits have been filed in Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia since the outbreak. The lawsuit in Ontario is claiming damages of $350 million.