CANADA: Link to listeria
Melissa Di Costanzo
CORNWALL – Listeria has been linked to the temporary layoff of 320 people employed at Olymel Prince Foods in Cornwall.
According to a news release dated July 22 from the United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), an importer from New York recalled roughly 2,900 pounds of diced bacon products that may have been contaminated with Listeria.
Through routine testing on July 19, FSIS found a sample of cooked diced bacon imported from Olymel's Cornwall plant (Canadian EST No. 169A, Aliments Prince, S.E.C.) to be positive for Listeria.
Eating food contaminated with Listeria can cause listeriosis, a potentially fatal disease. Listeriosis can cause a high fever, severe headache, neck stiffness and nausea.
"This U.S. recall is dated on July 22, it was one of the elements that brought us to take the decision of closing the plant for (a) certain number of weeks, as a matter of fact, four weeks, to implement procedures, take actions, to meet and surpass all standards. That was one of the elements (why the local plant was closed)," said company spokesperson, Richard Vigneault. "The rules are a little bit different in the U.S....about products."
When asked what the other reasons were as to why the plant is currently shuttered, Vigneault said: "we need to improve the whole process."
"That's what we're doing responsibly," he said. "That means what it means. This is very clear. I think we took the decision to close the plant to implement new actions, new procedures, to be sure that everything that the plant, when it will reopen, will be meeting all Canadian and American standards, and maybe surpass them...in terms of bio security, in terms of process, in all terms."
He said the goal of the plant's closure is to "implement, take actions, new actions, implement all the process and reopen the plant with full capacity, in better condition possible."
"Everything is being done to upgrade the process and to be sure everything would be OK, meeting all the standards, Canadian as well as U.S., as soon as we reopen the plant," he said. "That's what we're working on now."
Vigneault said there are "many actions" to be taken.
"I can't describe all of them," he said. "There is a review of all process."
Vigneault said the U.S. market is "very important" to the company, and that this was "one of the elements why we decided to make a...decision of our process."
"For that, we unfortunately have to take the decision, a responsible decision, I should say, to close the plant," he said.
Vigneault said there had been no health issues in the United States or in Canada related to Olymel's products from Cornwall, which has not been confirmed by the FSIS.
As of July 22, the FSIS and the company had received no reports of illnesses associated with the consumption of these products.
"There (is) no link with Canadian products that have been manufactured at the Cornwall plant. There's no health issues. There's no bio security problems with our product in Canada," he said.
Vigneault said the plant is working under Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) regulations which are "very severe."
"Every day, we're testing our products. Every day, we want to be sure that there's no health issue, that there's no problem with food security, and so on," he said.
When asked how this particular case involving the bacon had slipped through the plant's oversight, Vigneault said: "well, it happens sometimes."
"Maybe there was a small quantity, but according to the U.S. rules, that was stopped, that was recalled," he said.
When asked if he meant a small quantity of Listeria, Vigneault said "could be."
"It happens sometimes, it can happen...the fact that we shut the plant, we want to be sure that every problem, if those problems exist, will be fixed and set up and everything will be back to normal and every day, as soon as the plant reopens, there's inspections on the spot at the plant, every day," he said. "We really take all means to be sure that there's no health hazards associated with the products coming out of that plant."
Calls from the CFIA were not returned by press time.