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Maple Leaf Food Enhanced Safety Protocols Performing As Designed

TORONTO, Jan. 24, 2009 (Canada NewsWire via COMTEX News Network) — While listeria exists in all ready-to-eat plants and presents an exceptionally low risk, Maple Leaf has implemented industry leading practices to detect and eradicate listeria, which are performing as designed.

The finding of listeria in a food plant may occur daily. The goal of a well designed program is to generate those findings, create data patterns for additional investigations and to use the results of these findings on a daily basis to eradicate it at the location in which it was found. The greater food safety risk to the Canadian public are those plants which are not finding positive results, largely due to the inexistence or lack of penetration of a properly designed testing program.

Recent evidence of routine detection of listeria at the Company’s Cappola plant was evidence of a properly functioning protocol, with a successful outcome for food safety and the Canadian public. Additionally, this plant produces predominantly dry cured meats, which don’t promote the growth of listeria so pose considerably low health risk according to Health Canada. There was and is no food safety risk to the public. The Company is working cooperatively with the CFIA, who have confirmed there is no food safety risk. There is no investigation underway; the CFIA is at the plant verifying and validating the unprecedented levels of data that Maple Leaf has shared.

“Our food safety protocols are working and we have implemented the highest food safety practices in Canada, well above government and industry standards,” said Michael H. McCain, President and CEO. “The greatest risk to the Canadian food safety system is the multitude of Canadian plants which do not find positive test results simply because they don’t test adequately. If you test, you will find and you can eradicate with the proper protocols. If you don’t test, you won’t find, but there will be no eradication which is the real food safety risk in this country.”

Key features of the Maple Leaf enhanced environmental and product testing protocols include:

    -  A program of testing daily in plants, designed to find listeria that
       is known to always exist in a ready to eat food plant. It is at or
       above the most rigorous testing protocol in North America.

    -  Over the past three months Maple Leaf has collected over 42,300 test
       results across its 24 packaged meat plants. This represents an average
       of 1,760 results per plant. This level of listeria testing is an
       unprecedented level of testing to provide an early warning system.

    -  Our rate of positives tests across our plants is consistently less
       than 1%, which is 50-80% better than industry data available from the

    -  All test results are maintained in an analytical data base to monitor
       and review results constantly, and allow investigative analysis for

    -  The Company treats all positives in the most aggressive way possible
       to ensure the safety of our products. Tests detect any listeria
       species, which includes all six strains of the bacteria, even though
       only one strain (listeria monocytogenese) presents any risk to human

    -  Company operating, scientific and technical staff review test results
       and action plans daily across the entire network.

    -  Product quarantine procedures have been implemented to ensure product
       doesn't leave our plants if we have any concerns.

    -  If early warning environmental testing systems indicate listeria at a
       plant location, we product test at statistically relevant levels to
       ensure the safety of the product.

    -  Maple Leaf's protocols are working and we have the highest food safety
       standards in Canada. We encourage ALL food processors across the
       country to match this level of rigour.

“Maple Leaf has implemented best practices of listeria testing and control in North America,” said Randy Huffman, Chief Food Safety Officer. “While this provides an excellent early detection system, the Company’s commitment to food safety will involve ongoing investment, training and adoption of global best practices.”

Maple Leaf Foods Inc. is a leading food processing company, headquartered in Toronto, Canada. The Company employs approximately 23,500 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.

SOURCE: Maple Leaf Foods Inc.

Linda Smith, (416) 457-1814