Media Advisory - Maple Leaf Posts Background Materials



    
    TSX: MFI
    www.mapleleaf.com
    

    TORONTO, Oct. 9 /CNW/ - Maple Leaf Foods (TSX/MFI) has posted the
background materials distributed at today's news conference.

    
    Documents provided with this advisory are:

    -   Media Backgrounder on Positive Test Results at Bartor Road
    -   Listeria Fact Sheet

    Maple Leaf Foods Inc. is a leading food processing company, headquartered
in Toronto, Canada. The Company employs approximately 23,000 people at its
operations across Canada and in the United States, the United Kingdom and
Asia. The company had sales of $5.2 billion in 2007.


             Maple Leaf Foods Bartor Road Positive Test Results
                             Media Backgrounder

    Maple Leaf Foods voluntarily recalled 191 products produced at its Bartor
Road facility from January 1, 2008, to present, as a precautionary measure
after the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and Public Health Agency of
Canada concluded that the same Listeria monocytogenes strain identified in
some Maple Leaf products was linked to the illness and loss of life of several
Canadians.

    -   The Bartor Road plant began phasing in production on
        September 17, 2008.

    -   The plant has been operating within a very highly controlled and
        monitored environment, with daily on-site inspection and oversight by
        the CFIA to ensure the effectiveness of food safety protocols.

    -   As part of the controlled plant start-up, all products have been
        subject to a hold and release program to test for the presence of
        Listeria monocytogenes (Listeria mono.).

    -   Nearly 6,000 samples in total have been taken to date, (5,040 product
        and 841 environmental). We have received 3,850 product test results
        that include production through to October 2nd, all of which have
        tested negative with the exception of four product samples (0.1%)
        produced on Line 7 and one environmental swab (0.15%).

    -   No products from the plant, including the four product samples that
        tested positive, have been distributed for public consumption and the
        protocols we have in place have proven to be very effective.

    -   We are being ultra-cautious in this facility. Maple Leaf and the CFIA
        has placed all product on hold pending a confirmation that these
        findings are validated, reflecting the conservative approach to
        phasing in the start-up of the Bartor Road plant.

    The Facts

    -   Of 841 environmental samples taken to date, we have obtained 671
        results, of which only one (0.15%) has tested positive for listeria
        species.

    -   60 product samples are taken from each line daily. Samples are taken
        off the line every 8-12 minutes:
        -  5 products are put into a composite test
        -  One day = 12 composite samples

    -   Of 5,040 product samples taken to date, we have obtained 3,850 test
        results, all of which have been negative for Listeria mono. except
        for four samples, which all came from line 7.

    -   The four samples that tested positive were from two products, Hygrade
        smoked meat and Coorsh smoked meat.

    -   No products have been released for distribution and there is no risk
        to the public.

    Background:

    -   Listeria is pervasive in the environment and exists in all food
        plants. While it can be reduced it can never be eliminated. The more
        you test the greater the probability that you will find listeria.

    -   As Health Canada states, the incidence of Listeria mono. in RTE foods
        ranges from 1-10%. Put another way, one in every 200 products will
        test positive for Listeria mono. To most people, Listeria mono. poses
        a very low risk.

    -   The Bartor Road plant is subject to the most rigorous testing and
        inspection in North America. It has a number of checks in place to
        ensure we verify on a continuous basis the effectiveness of our food
        safety protocols.

    -   The standard protocol for positive tests in a Maple Leaf plant is
        immediate product quarantine and remediation through sanitization
        programs.

    -   The four product samples from Line 7 that tested positive have not
        been shipped to customers and all remaining production since the
        plant re-opened is 100% within our control.

    -   None of our products in the market are affected.

    -   Our testing protocols are doing what they are intended - identifying
        listeria so that it can be remediated. We are upholding the highest
        standard of food safety vigilance in Canada.

    Background information on listeria, Listeria monocytogenes and related
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------
    health risks
    ------------

    Source: Food Directorate, Health Canada, Policy on Listeria monocytogenes
    in Ready-To-Eat (RTE) Foods, July 2004

    -   International experts of the World Health Organization (1988)
        concluded that "the total elimination of Listeria monocytogenes
        (Listeria mono.) from all foods is impractical and may be impossible"

    -   It is estimated that 5% of humans carry Listeria mono. in their
        intestines without ill effects.

    -   Occasionally this organism causes an infection - listeriosis. The
        highest incident is among newborns, the elderly and immuno-
        compromised individuals.

    -   A number of major foodborne outbreaks have been documented in Europe
        and NA. In Canada there have been relatively few outbreaks.

    -   Listeria mono. has been found in a wide range of foods, including
        unpasteurized cheeses, cold cuts, smoked fish, shellfish and
        vegetables.

    -   The incidence of Listeria mono. in RTE foods ranges from 1-10% (or
        approximately one in every 200 products). It can be assumed,
        therefore, that Canadians are consuming foods contaminated with this
        organism on a regular basis.

    -   Although the minimum infectious dose (MID) for Listeria mono. has not
        been determined, if the MID were low, one would expect many more
        cases of listeriosis to be reported than are currently observed. In
        fact, from the limited outbreak data available, there is little
        evidence that low numbers of Listeria mono. in a food will cause
        listeriosis, even in susceptible individuals. (FAO 1999)

    -   Therefore, the likelihood of any one food contaminated with low
        numbers of Listeria mono. resulting in illness, based on current data
        from around the world, must be considered remote.


                             LISTERIA FACT SHEET
    

    LISTERIA - There are six different species of the bacterium Listeria.
Only one of these species Listeria monocytogenes (L. monocytogenes) causes
human illness - the others are usually harmless for humans. Listeria can be
found almost everywhere and has been isolated from a number of sources,
including soil, water and foods. It has evolved the ability to survive in a
variety of different environmental conditions, including moist environments
like refrigerators, and under a variety of stress conditions.

    STRAINS - Within L. monocytogenes, a multitude of different strains (e.g.
more than 300 strains identified in one study) have been documented. Strains
can be defined by a variety of methods, including a process known as
pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) which gives different "genetic
fingerprint" patterns.

    LISTERIA AND FOOD - Listeria can be found in unprocessed food such as raw
dairy products, meat, poultry, fish, as well as processed foods such as deli
meats, hot dogs, cheese and ice-cream. It is sometimes found in raw
vegetables. It can also be spread with an infected product or surface, such as
hands or kitchen counters during food preparation.

    LISTERIOSIS - This is the serious infection caused by eating food
containing L. monocytogenes. Listeriosis usually occurs only in people with
weakened immune systems (e.g. AIDS patients, organ transplant recipients,
cancer patients), the elderly, pregnant women, and newborns. The infection can
begin with fever and gastrointestinal symptoms, but can spread to the blood
stream and/or the nervous system giving symptoms of meningitis. In pregnant
women, L. monocytogenes can also spread to the fetus, causing premature
delivery, miscarriages or infections of the newborn baby.

    For more information about Listeriosis visit the Public Health Agency of
Canada website at www.publichealth.gc.ca.

    INCUBATION PERIOD - The incubation period can be as much as 70 days after
exposure for the more serious forms of Listeriosis, however symptoms usually
appear within two to 30 days. For the milder forms, it can be as little as one
day.

    INCIDENCE OF ILLNESS - The disease listeriosis is very rare, affecting an
estimated 1-5 in 1,000,000 people per year in most developed countries. In
people contracting the disease it can be very serious - an estimated 20% of
people with this disease die due to listeriosis. Pregnant women are 20 times
more likely to get listeriosis (as compared to healthy individuals), and
account for about a third of all listeriosis cases. Persons with AIDS are
about 850 times more likely to get listeriosis, as compared to healthy
individuals.

    CONSUMER RISK - Even if L. monocytogenes is absent in ready-to-eat meat
and poultry products after processing, or found at very low prevalence and
levels, additional contamination can occur after the packs are opened -
especially when the meat is handled. Although L. monocytogenes can grow while
refrigerated, growth is very slow at temperatures below 4:C. In ready-to-eat
foods stored at higher temperatures, for example above 7:C, growth occurs more
rapidly, increasing the risk that L. monocytogenes will reach levels more
likely to cause human illness. Both safe food handling and maintaining proper
refrigeration temperatures are critical to minimizing the risk of listeriosis.

    COOKED MEAT - Listeria is killed by cooking. Thoroughly cooking product
to 165:F/74:C will kill the bacteria. Consumers at high risk for contracting
listeriosis (e.g. pregnant women and the elderly) should reheat deli meats
immediately before consumption.

    FREEZING - Listeria is not killed by freezing. Growth is arrested
altogether, but normal growth will be resumed after thawing.

    DELI PLANTS - Listeria is everywhere, so elimination is out of the
question. Listeria is expected to enter any meat plant with raw materials and
personnel and once inside, it can live almost anywhere - on floors, drains,
cooling, ventilation, slicing and packaging equipment. The strategy for the
food industry remains one of risk mitigation driven by robust surveillance and
sanitation programs. Regular cleaning and sanitation is needed to prevent
growth and survival of this organism, including disassembly and deep cleaning
in harbourage points of equipment, and contamination of the surfaces in
contact with ready-to-eat meats.

    SURVEILLANCE - Control of Listeria in a manufacturing plant is monitored
by a program of regular swabbing and sampling from the plant "environment".
There are standard remedial procedures for immediately re-testing any sites
that test positive for Listeria species, including supplementary cleaning
protocols. Environmental testing is industry best practice to detect and
manage Listeria in a food processing plant. It is more informative than
finished product testing, as it points to the source as a target for further
sanitation.

    INFECTIVE DOSE - How many bacteria are needed to cause an infection? The
quantity of bacteria on food is expressed as the number of colony-forming
units per gram (CFU/g). Levels of 100 CFU/g in food at point of consumption
are regarded as safe, meaning that people consuming foods with low levels of
L. monocytogenes have an extremely low risk of contracting listeriosis. As
with all disease-causing micro-organisms there is no threshold below which
there is a true "zero" risk for human illness. Estimates based on US data
suggest though that less than 0.2% of the 2,500 listeriosis cases that occur
annually in the US are caused by foods contaminated with 100 or less CFU per
serving. By contrast, more than 80% of these cases are caused by foods
contaminated with more than one million CFU per serving. Thus foods that
contain extremely high levels of L. represent the main risk for consumers.

    CARRIERS - Companion animals (pets) and humans can be asymptomatic
carriers of Listeria monocytogenes. Transmission of L. monocytogenes by a
carrier to another person is probably rare, due to the small dose of bacteria
received. Equally airborne infection is rare and has never been reported.

    LIVESTOCK - All classes of livestock and thus raw meat may contain
Listeria. Raw meat must therefore always be treated as a potential source of
L. monocytogenes.

    RESISTANCE TO SANITIZERS - There is evidence that some strains of
Listeria monocytogenes may show resistance to certain sanitizers, including
quaternary ammonia-based sanitizers. In addition and more importantly, L.
monocytogenes can survive and multiply in harborage points in processing
plants. These harborage points may be places that cannot be reached by
sanitizers. Identification and elimination of harborage points, for example
with the help of environmental sampling and testing programs, is thus crucial
for controlling L. monocytogenes in food processing plants.

    L. MONOCYTOGENES CONTAMINATION AT THE BARTOR FACILITY- This was
investigated by a global panel of leading Listeria experts. The panel that the
most likely source of the Listeria contamination was a harborage point deep
within the slicing equipment. Other possible factors and entry points were
nearby drains and a service elevator. The panel recommended additional
enhancements to the Company's extensive cleaning and environmental sampling
procedures be introduced for all possible risk areas.

    THE INCIDENCE OF LISTERIA MONOCYTOGENES IN PRODUCTS - Based on finished
product testing conducted at Bartor Road from production since start-up
through to and including October 2nd:

    
    -   The Bartor Road rate is 0.1% (four in 3,850 test results).
    -   According to USDA Food Safety and Inspection Services data, the rate
        in :
        -   Ready-to-Eat (RTE) Meats and Poultry products is in the range
            of 0.3 to 1% - this is three to 10 times higher than at Bartor
            Road.
        -  In Deli and Sliced Meats, the number was 0.8% - this is eight
           times higher than at Bartor Road.
    -   According to the Journal of Food Protection, by Gomas et al, the
        incidence in RTE foods is "up to 0.4%"
    -   In Canada, the incidence in beef and poultry RTE vacuum packed
        products was found to be 3 to 5% based on a 2006 study from the
        University of Alberta
    -   The bacteria is highly prevalent in raw meat cuts (raw materials
        coming into the plant). Numerous studies have shown prevalence to be
        in the 20 to 30% range.

    THE INCIDENCE OF LISTERIA MONOCYTOGENES IN THE ENVIRONMENT - Based on
environmental testing for Listeria species conducted at Bartor Road from
production since start-up through to and including October 2nd:

    -   The Bartor Road rate is 0.15% (one in 671 test results)
    -   According to USDA Food Safety and Inspection Services data, the
        incidence in North American plants of Listeria mono. (which is a
        subset of the Listeria Species we use) is 1.9% - about 13 times
        higher than at Bartor Road.
    

    ERADICATION - Listeria is everywhere, so elimination is out of the
question. Instead, the strategy for the food industry remains one of risk
mitigation driven by robust surveillance and sanitation programs. A major part
of this is to detect the presence of L. monocytogenes in processing plants
before it reaches food contact surfaces and product, and to immediately
control the bacteria as soon as it is found. In addition, efforts to reduce
introduction of the organisms into food processing plants are critical. As
well, design and use of food processing equipment that does not represent
growth niches for this organism is critical. Finally, it is important that
efforts continue to understand the ability of this organism to survive and
multiply under adverse conditions, and that this knowledge is used to design
new strategies for control.





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