More testing, not inspectors may have prevented listeria says McCain; will test results be made public?

Micahel McCain, the president of Maple Leaf Foods, was correct yesterday when he told a Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce event that adding more food inspectors to the plant floor would not have made a difference in preventing last August’s listeria outbreak at one of its Toronto plants that caused 22 deaths.

"What is very important to recognize about bacteria is that you cannot see it. We wish you could visually inspect for bacteria, but it can’t be seen with the eyes, tasted or touched."

The head of the $5.2-billion-a-year Toronto-based food giant was adamant that more testing was the only effective way to address the issue and that Maple Leaf has doubled the number of tests being undertaken.

Thank you for that lesson in microbiology, Mr. McCain. Yes, the inspectors’ union in Canada has been shamelessly exploiting the deaths of 22 people to get more shifts for its workers. Good of you to call them on it.

Now to the harder questions, which McCain continues to avoid.

Why didn’t Maple Leaf do more extensive testing prior to the outbreak? It’s not like there haven’t been listeria outbreaks in ready-to-eat refrigerated foods like cold cuts before.

Why won’t Maple Leaf make all of its listeria test results public, especially since it wants to build consumer confidence.

Will Maple Leaf put warning labels on its cold cuts to advise pregnant women and older folks that such products shouldn’t be eaten raw?

And to all the dieticians running the menus at the elderly folks homes where the 22 people died: what were you thinking serving cold cuts? How hard is it to heat a sandwich? Have any of you had any decent food safety training?