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Maple Leaf Statement in Response to Toronto Star Coverage

TORONTO, Nov 08, 2008 Maple Leaf Foods (MFI: TSX) today released the following statement from Michael McCain, President and CEO, in reaction to the investigative media coverage by the Toronto Star on Saturday, November 8, 2008.

Maple Leaf has made every attempt to be transparent, to be timely and to put consumer interests first in all of its actions and communications related to the recent listeria outbreak. Our efforts to go above and beyond what was required have been demonstrated through extensive timely communications of the facts, recalling substantially more products than necessary, temporarily closing the plant to do a full investigation, and implementation of enhanced food safety protocols across our entire network of packaged meat plants.

Headlines in today’s Toronto Star alleging that Maple Leaf was “slow to recognize the threat” is simply not reflected in any of the facts or science – it does not reflect the truth. We clearly experienced a breach in our food safety protocols and we took full responsibility for that. Throughout, we’ve been fact-based and science-based in our communications, and have been quick to answer media and consumer requests for information in a very timely manner. Our expectation is that the Toronto Star coverage would be equally fact and science-based.

As we have stated previously, within hours of being notified by the CFIA of a positive test for Listeria monocytogenes, products were recalled by way of a news release issued to alert consumers. Prior to that Maple Leaf had advised distributors, even in the absence of science-based information, to hold product pending the outcome of a CFIA investigation, which is an additional precautionary measure only Maple Leaf implements, to ensure rapid response in the remote chance we would require a product recall. This protects consumers ensuring that product is segregated and does not move further into distribution. These and other actions were taken as part of the company’s extensive preparedness plans in the event of the outcome of test results by the CFIA.

We have also repeatedly described the scientific facts that ALL food plants and ALL supermarkets have some amount of listeria. Equally, it is scientific fact that a well engineered listeria management program is DESIGNED to find positive results, and when it does – which occurs routinely – the company takes immediate action to remediate the finding with the goal of keeping it out of the food we produce. The more aggressive the program, the more positive tests any food operation will find and the more opportunity there is to protect consumers interests. Maple Leaf has always responded to these positive findings of a properly designed protocol by immediately taking remedial actions to address them and as we have said many times, subsequent follow-up swab test at the Bartor Road plant were negative.

Of course, this reduces risk but doesn’t eliminate it, and in this case, as we have repeatedly said, our best efforts failed us, which is why we took the immediate action we did.

Referencing the company as “slow to respond” is absurd. I am disappointed with the absence of frequently communicated facts from both the CFIA and Maple Leaf in the story.