Tainted sandwiches claim 12 lives in Canada

August 26th, 2008 - 10:49 am ICT by IANS  

Toronto, Aug 26 (IANS) A food-borne bacteria outbreak has so far claimed 12 lives in Canada, forcing a recall of many meat and cheese-based food products across the country.The bacteria outbreak has caused one of the biggest recalls of food products, mostly sandwiches, in Canadian history.

Confirming this Monday, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the Public Health Agency said the six of the deaths were directly linked to listeriosis - a food-borne bacteria - and the other were under investigation.

The two agencies also confirmed that 29 cases of bacterial infection have been reported across the country so far.

Listeriosis causes a flu-like illness with nausea, vomiting, cramps, diarrhea, high fever, severe headache and neck stiffness. It affects the weak and elderly very quickly, causing brain infection and eventually death.

Infections during pregnancy can also lead to premature delivery, infection of the newborn, or even stillbirth.

Microbiologists say the bacterial contamination is caused by unhygienic conditions at plants where meat and cheese products like sandwiches are processed and packed.

They say listeria microbes are found in raw food. Cooking can kill them, but when they manage to pass through food safety processes applied in sandwiches, they get dangerous as they thrive in salt and nitrates under refrigeration temperatures.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) also warned the public not to serve or consume sandwiches from the Safeway brand and the TakeAwayCafe brand as they may contaminated with listeria.

These sandwiches contain various ready-to-eat deli meat products recalled by Maple Leaf Consumer Foods at Burlington (near Toronto), though there have been no reported illnesses associated with the consumption of these sandwiches, the agency said.

The Maple Leaf Foods plant near here has been the focus after the outbreak as it supplied meat-based products countrywide. The plant, which was shut down last week after the outbreak, is still under health inspections.

Canadian agriculture minister Gerry Ritz said Monday: “It is important that all retailers use due diligence and pull products from their shelves.”

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