Media Centre
2004/01/27

Maple Leaf Foods launches DNA pork traceability program

TORONTO, ONTARIO, January 27, 2004 -- Maple Leaf Foods Inc.
(TSX: MFI) today announced that having successfully completed research and
development into producing a DNA traceability program for pork, it is set to
launch the first commercial application of this technology, with far-reaching
benefits for food safety and the Canadian pork industry.


The DNA traceability system will allow Canadian pork
marketed anywhere in the world to be traced back to the maternal sow, providing
the Canadian pork industry with a major competitive advantage and an essential
point of difference for the “Made in Canada” brand. Canada has set the
international gold standard for pork, based on our superior quality, exclusion
of growth promotants and sustainable environmental practices. DNA traceability
provides further assurance to consumers that they are getting the best pork
from the world’s healthiest hogs, raised under the third-party audited Canadian
Quality Assurance program.


The system will be implemented at one of Maple Leaf’s
plants in the spring of 2004, and initially provide fully traceable pork
products to the Japanese market by the fourth quarter of 2004. Maple Leaf plans
to make the commercial traceability system available for use by the Canadian
pork industry after the initial implementation.


“In an era of growing concerns over food safety and
increasing demands for full traceability of meat products, this breakthrough
will deliver an added level of food safety assurance,” said Michael H. McCain,
President and Chief Executive Officer of Maple Leaf Foods. “By using DNA, which
is nature’s bar code, this system is uniquely positioned to trace product from
the consumer to the farm of origin, where current methods cannot. DNA
traceability will provide a calling card for Canadian pork that no other
country can currently match.”


Maple Leaf worked with Pyxis Genomics Inc. in the research
and development phase of the DNA traceability project to develop a panel of
highly informative genetic markers. By combining well-proven fingerprinting
technology, enhanced with its own innovations, Pyxis successfully developed a
gene panel that provides the foundation for the pork traceability system, which
can accurately and rapidly trace pork products back to the farm of origin.
Although the traceability system was developed for pork products, it is broadly
applicable to other animal-species.


The traceability system involves obtaining a blood sample
from the maternal sow, which is then DNA-typed. The DNA information is then
entered into a database linked to the farm of origin information. Producers can
then update the database directly with the dates of birth of each litter.


“The success of identifying the gene panel significantly
enhances our ability to provide live animal tracking systems that can directly
link store-bought product back to its origin in a matter of hours, instead of
days or weeks,” said Dr. Lawrence B. Schook, President and Chief Executive
Officer of Pyxis Genomics Inc. “This is critical in an industry seeking to
offer the highest standards of assurance to consumers in containing food safety
incidents when they occur.”


Maple Leaf and Pyxis have chosen Orchid BioSciences to
develop an assay to analyze the genetic marker panel and to implement a quality
accredited laboratory process that will deliver rapid, high-throughput DNA
analysis. Orchid is a leading provider of genetic testing with a proven record
in the agricultural sector through its scrapie genotyping service, processing
over half a million samples at its U.K. facility last year.


“Orchid’s proprietary genotyping and service testing
expertise ensures we can deliver cost-effective, accurate and rapid high-volume
genetic analyses for animal food safety applications,” said Paul J. Kelly,
M.D., Chief Executive Officer, Orchid BioSciences, Inc. “Orchid has been a
pioneer in developing and implementing new technologies to advance the utility
of DNA identity testing and we look forward to contributing to the commercial
success of Maple Leaf’s traceability program.”


Maple Leaf and Pyxis have chosen IBM Canada Ltd. to create
and implement the comprehensive database featuring a computerized search engine
that will quickly match DNA from a piece of meat to the mother’s identity. The
traceability database is being designed to be capable of expansion and
potentially link into any current or future system of national traceability in
Canada, while also protecting the rights and confidentiality of producers.


“This initiative is a great example of IBM’s industry
knowledge and technology expertise coming together to help solve a strategic
mission for Maple Leaf,” stated Ed Kilroy, President, IBM Canada Ltd. “We are
committed to developing expertise and solutions like this across many key
industries around the world.” 


About Maple Leaf Foods Inc.


Maple Leaf Foods Inc. (TSX: MFI) is a leading Canadian food
processing company committed to delivering quality food products to consumers
around the world. Headquartered in Toronto, Canada, the company employs more
than 18,000 people at its operations across Canada and in the United States,
Europe and Asia. Maple Leaf Foods had sales of $5.1 billion in 2002. More
information on Maple Leaf Foods can be found at www.mapleleaf.com.


 


About Pyxis Genomics Inc.


Pyxis Genomics Inc. is a privately held animal genomics
company headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. Pyxis Genomics Canada is a
wholly-owned subsidiary based in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Founded in 1999,
Pyxis Genomics is a world leader in maximizing the health and performance of
animal through its products, platforms and tools. As a global genomics-based
animal health company, Pyxis Genomics discovers, develops and commercializes
its own products and services to treat and cure animal diseases, enhance animal
fitness, and increase productivity through nutritional intervention. Fore more
information visit
www.pyxisgenomics.com
.


 


About Orchid BioSciences Inc.


Orchid BioSciences, Inc. (Nasdaq: ORCH) is the leading
provider of identity genomics services for the forensic and paternity DNA
testing markets and for public health DNA testing for food safety. Orchid’s
market leading positions in these segments leverage the Company’s accredited
laboratories in the U.S. and the U.K. its innovative genetic analysis
technologies and expertise, and the world-renowned Cellmark and GeneScreen
brands that have been associated with exceptional quality, reliability,
innovation and customer service for nearly two decades. More information on
Orchid can be found at
www.orchid.com
and www.orchideurope.com.


About IBM


IBM is the world's largest information technology company,
with over 80 years of leadership in helping businesses innovate. With
consultants and professional staff in more than 160 countries globally, IBM
Business Consulting Services provides clients with business process and
industry expertise, a deep understanding of technology solutions that address
specific industry issues, and the ability to design, build and run those
solutions in a way that delivers bottom-line value for Canadian businesses. For
more information, visit
www.ibm.com/ca
.


 


Note to Editors

News Conference:



Tuesday, January 27, 2004 at 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time

Royal York Hotel, Quebec Room, Main Mezzanine Level,


100 Front Street West, Toronto



Webcast Coordinates:


http://www.startcast.com/shows/91/A0002



Conference Call Coordinates:


416-405-9328 / 1-800-387-6216



Visuals: B-roll will be available for television media on


Tuesday, January 27, 2004 at 11:45 a.m. (EST) and 1:45 p.m. (EST) at Anik E2,
C-Band, Transponder 1B, audios 6.2 and 6.8. 


A replay of the webcast will be available through the same
webcast site later in the day, or at
www.mapleleaf.com
.
Briefing materials will be also available via the webcast and on Maple Leaf
Foods’ website at www.mapleleaf.com.


 


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