Monty Python and the Holy Grail of Listeria

As part of her cultural education, about-to-be graduate student Katie has been exposed –inundated – with some of the favorite movies of Doug and Amy.

Last week it was Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Young Katie wasn’t too impressed, and I’ll admit, the film has aged.

But certain bits still come readily to mind. When Amy asks me to clean up the yard and landscape, I think of the Knights Who Say Nee and ask for shrubberies from Roger the Shrubber. When Amy and her colleagues speak French, I want to taunt them John Cleese-style, such as, “Your mother was a hamster, and your father smelled of elderberries.”

So when Canadian Agriculture Minister and would-be standup comedian, Gerry Ritz, told special parliamentary hearings tonight that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has "suffered a black eye" over last summer’s deadly listeriosis outbreak and that it was time to "get past the politics of this issue and move forward," I couldn’t help but think of the scene from the Holy Grail after Lancelot has killed and maimed many of the wedding party celebrating the union of Prince Herbert and the huge tracks of land owned by Princess Lucky. Prince Herbert’s father, eager for land and not a swamp, says to the dead and wounded,

"What’s the point of bickering and arguing about who killed who, it’s time to move forward.”

The layers of the listeria onion are slowing peeling away, and if a few key reporters can keep their jobs before being swallowed by the Intertubes, Canadians may eventually find out who knew what when and why in the listeria shitfest of 2008.

Sarah Schmidt of Canwest reports tonight that CFIA is permitting food companies to use non-accredited laboratories to analyze some listeria tests after the industry shot down a pricey proposal tabled after last summer’s deadly listeriosis outbreak requiring the use of accredited labs, according to newly released ministerial briefing notes. …

At the time of the listeriosis outbreak, such companies as Maple Leaf Foods were not required to conduct environmental listeria tests throughout their meat plants, including food-contact surfaces.

And if companies were analyzing these tests at in-house labs, CFIA inspectors were not required to review them.

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About Douglas Powell

A former professor of food safety and the publisher of, Powell is passionate about food, has five daughters, and is an OK goaltender in pickup hockey. Download Doug’s CV here. Dr. Douglas Powell editor, retired professor, food safety 3/289 Annerley Rd Annerley, Queensland 4103 61478222221 I am based in Brisbane, Australia, 15 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time