In 2008, Listeria in Maple Leaf cold-cuts killed 23 Canadians and sickened another 55.
An outbreak of listeria in cheese in Quebec in fall 2008 led to 38 hospitalizations, of which 13 were pregnant and gave birth prematurely. Two adults died and there were 13 perinatal deaths.
A Sept. 2008 report showed that of the 78 residents of the Canadian province of British Columbia who contracted listeriosis in the past six years, 10 per cent were pregnant women whose infections put them at high risk of miscarriage or stillbirth.
The majority — nearly 60 per cent — of pregnant women diagnosed with listeriosis either miscarry or have stillbirths.
In the April 2010 edition of the journal, Canadian Family Physician, the Motherisk team at the previously reputable Toronto Hospital for Sick Children published a piece that said, without any references, that “pregnant women need not avoid soft-ripened cheeses or deli meats, so long as they are consumed in moderation and obtained from reputable stores.”
Five years later, the hospital has finally decided to take action.
But not because of bogus advice.
The Hospital for Sick Children has permanently discontinued hair drug and alcohol tests at its embattled Motherisk Drug Testing Laboratory after an internal review “further explored and validated” previous, and as yet undisclosed, “questions and concerns.”
The decision, announced on Friday, comes amid a Star investigation and mounting pressure from critics to shutter the lab, whose hair drug and alcohol tests have been used in criminal and child protection cases across the country, typically as evidence of parental substance abuse.
In March, Sick Kids temporarily suspended all non-research operations at Motherisk, after Lang’s review and the hospital’s review revealed new information, pending the results of Lang’s review, which are expected by June 30.
The hospital has declined to elaborate on the nature of that information. A hospital spokeswoman said on Friday that Sick Kids is not taking media inquiries.
Health Minister Eric Hoskins refused to answer questions on why there is so much secrecy surrounding the problems uncovered at Motherisk and instead issued a statement by email about Lang’s review.
“The independent review is ongoing and we have confidence in the work that is being carried out by the Honourable Susan Lang,” he said.
Sick Kids recently temporarily reassigned medical oversight of Motherisk, which also counsels pregnant women on which medications are safe to take, amid questions from the Star about the ties between Motherisk director and founder Gideon Koren and the drug company Duchesnay.
The questions related to the lack of disclosure of the funding Motherisk receives from Duchesnay in a booklet for pregnant women co-written by Koren and featured on the Motherisk website, which heavily promotes the use of Duchesnay’s drug Diclectin to treat morning sickness.