Listeria recall: We’ve got pictures, Maple Leaf doesn’t

Maple Leaf’s CEO Michael McCain says his company has a culture of food safety.  I’ve written about the food safety culture concept and believe that a big part of it is being ready for outbreaks and recalls.  They happen.  A lot.

I’m not sure what Mr. McCain and his team has done in preparation for this outbreak, but in March  I wrote about Quaker Oats handling of a recall due to Salmonella in some of their Aunt Jemima products:

"Quaker Oats has great information on their website already [less than 4 hours after the recall], with a nice graphic on how to handle the recall…. Especially love that people can sign-up for ongoing info — good preparation on Quaker Oats’ part."

It looked like they were ready for a problem, and already had the resources in place to get information out to their customers.

The thing I liked the most about Quaker Oats’ Aunt Jemima situation was that they had pictures of the recalled product. A company with a culture of food safety is ready for a recall, has a website with pictures and consumer-friendly information ready to go in anticipation, like Quaker Oats did.

Maple Leaf has a big list of recalled products (220, check it out here) but they don’t have any pictures of them. It’s not a superficial request to have some nice pictures to show folks what this stuff looks like, and where you can find the sometimes elusive codes/dates/establishment code.  It’s just good communication.  The FDA realized this, and last year started including pictures on their recall notices for products that they have deemed to be high health risks (after the Castleberry’s chili sauce recall). 

Sometimes I buy lunch meat.  Sometimes I even get the prepackaged stuff.  I don’t always know what brand it is, and I don’t know all the intricacies of the food system and get mixed up as to which parent company makes Shopsy’s.  The list system is confusing.

The Globe and Mail is reporting tonight that:
Maple Leaf is working with distributors to track down all 220 products from the Toronto site, which Mr. McCain told reporters could be anywhere in Canada. That could take as long as three to five days, he said during a news conference at the firm’s Toronto head office.

At about 7:50pm this evening I thought I’d take a look at whether I could find any of these recalled products at the grocery store and get some pictures to demonstrate where the codes can be found.

I found some.

About 2 minutes after entering Ultra Food and Drug in Guelph, I was able to find the recalled Maple Leaf’s EZee Sub Dagwood products, with the establishment code (denoted, I assume, by the "EST. 97B" still on the shelves.  That’s the bad news.

The good news is that I can use a real example of what one of the recalled products looks like and where the establishment code is.  Something that Maple Leaf hasn’t done.

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About Ben Chapman

Dr. Ben Chapman is a professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University. As a teenager, a Saturday afternoon viewing of the classic cable movie, Outbreak, sparked his interest in pathogens and public health. With the goal of less foodborne illness, his group designs, implements, and evaluates food safety strategies, messages, and media from farm-to-fork. Through reality-based research, Chapman investigates behaviors and creates interventions aimed at amateur and professional food handlers, managers, and organizational decision-makers; the gate keepers of safe food. Ben co-hosts a biweekly podcast called Food Safety Talk and tries to further engage folks online through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and, maybe not surprisingly, Pinterest. Follow on Twitter @benjaminchapman.