How Maple Leaf is Rebuilding Consumer Confidence

CANADA - Maple Leaf Foods reports consumer confidence in its products following the largest recall in the company's history - due to listeriosis - is slowly being restored, writes Bruce Cochrane.
calendar icon 23 January 2009
clock icon 3 minute read

In August 2008 Maple Leaf recalled 191 ready to eat sliced meat products produced at its Toronto processing plant after products from that plant were linked to a nation-wide listeriosis outbreak.

Vice president government and industry relations Rory McAlpine told those on hand for the 2009 Banff Pork Seminar on Wednesday (21 January 2009), Maple Leaf's first response was to take immediate accountability for what had happened, for the tragedy where its products were linked to human illness and death, and to commit to fixing the problem.

Rory McAlpine-Maple Leaf Foods

We had to firstly execute the recall itself which was extremely complex and involved national distribution so it was a challenge to do that quickly.

But we did so in partnership with our retail and food service customers.

Then, beyond actually successfully executing the recall, we had to implement a number of changes or improvements.

We had excellent systems of food safety control but, given the pervasiveness of listeria we learned there were new ways and better ways that we could mitigate that risk and we're done that through much enhanced protocols focusing particularly on the way we monitor the plant environment for risk and how we respond if and when we find positive presence of listeria.

System-wise we've also taken a new leadership role.

We've hired a new chief food safety officer for the company and are putting in place a number of protocols around better food safety control and are working in partnership with the industry and with government to ensure that we have high standards of best practice and regulatory oversight as well.

Mr McAlpine acknowledges the recall has certainly had a negative impact on consumer confidence but Maple Leaf has attempted to demonstrate its diligence in correcting the problem and, at this point, there is good evidence that consumers are making decisions to return to these products.

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