I’m in Kansas now, and while the InterTubes are sometimes broken, we’ve generally progressed beyond the stagecoach. UPS is a frequent guest at our mini-mansion on the hill.
I’ve taken to describing the delay in public advisories and test results in the Canadian listeria outbreak as being due to the time it takes to send samples by stagecoach to the national lab in Winnipeg. Unfortunately, a story in the K-W Record confirms this.
Dr. Don Low, medical director of Ontario’s provincial lab in Toronto, has finally joined me in calling the delay in test results when listeria emerged in mid-July, “inexcusable.”
"It is inexcusable to wait that number of days in order to get an answer back. The (Ontario) public health lab should be doing it. That has to change."
Meat samples travelled first from Toronto to a Health Canada lab in Ottawa, arriving on July 24, where they were tested for listeriosis.
It took until Aug. 5 — 12 days — for results to come back positive.
The samples were then shipped to Winnipeg’s national lab for "genetic fingerprinting" to determine whether the same strain of listeriosis in the meat matched blood samples from the victims.
Those test results, essential for tracking the source of the outbreak, took another 10 days to reach Toronto Public Health, says Dr. Vinita Dubey, the city’s associate medical officer of health.
When a salmonella outbreak hit the Southern U.S. only a month before Canada’s meat outbreak, testing was completed and public warnings were issued in a few days.
Meanwhile, Canadian politicians and bureaucrats were congratulating themselves on how well the system worked. What an embarrassment.
But don’t expect to hear any such criticism from the meat inspectors union. Instead, they launched a website and some public campaign during the Canadian election to hire 1,000 more meat inspectors who apparently will have listeria vision goggles which will allow them to better manage microbial risks. They have a bunch of other political points, all about securing jobs for inspectors, but not once did they mention, hey, people are dead and dying here. There’s too many sick people and we’re interested in having fewer sick people. Nope. Both the political and union leaders protect their own constituencies for political gain.
As Dr. Low says, it’s inexcusable.