Media Centre
2008/10/08

Update On Maple Leaf Bartor Road Start-Up Protocols

TORONTO, Oct. 8, 2008 (Canada NewsWire via COMTEX News Network) -- TSX: MFI

Consistent with normal findings and practice and as a result of rigorous and intensive sampling, Maple Leaf Foods has found a small number of positive test results for listeria in the Bartor Road facility. No products have been distributed and there is no risk to the public.

"Listeria exists in all food plants, all supermarkets and presumably in all kitchens", said Michael McCain, President and CEO. "Our testing protocols are designed to find positive results so we can remediate them immediately. The Bartor Road team has found a very small number of positive results, not unexpectedly, and is reacting exactly according to food safety protocols. While there is no risk to the public, we are behaving in the most conservative way possible, according to the protocols in how these findings are always to be handled."

The facility was closed on August 20th, subsequent to the finding of a consistent inoculation in product that was linked to an outbreak of listeriosis. The plant reopened on September 17th in a highly controlled and phased in approach.

The facility has been subject to intensive oversight by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and the Company to determine the effectiveness of food safety protocols. Listeria is everywhere in the environment and cannot be eliminated. According to the Canadian Food Directorate, 1 to 10% of all ready-to-eat food contains listeria, and it is benign to the vast majority of the population. The focus of the Company's food safety program, which is the most vigilant in Canada, is to ensure that listeria is detected as part of ongoing testing protocols so that it can be remediated through sanitization.

Since the plant re-opened 841 environmental samples have been taken, with one positive test result for listeria. This is considerably lower than what normal practice would yield in listeria management programs, and the Company is very pleased with this result. Products have also been subject to a hold and release protocol, where composite product samples are tested for Listeria monocytogenes and held based on confirmation of negative results before they can be cleared for distribution.

To date, over 5,000 product tests have been completed, with only four positive findings for Listeria monocytogenes. These four positive findings were in two products produced on a single line, and not related to the prior incident. No products from the plant, including the four product samples that tested positive, have been distributed for public consumption, and the protocols in place have proven to be very effective.

As a result of these findings, Maple Leaf and the CFIA are withholding distribution of any products from the Bartor Road facility, pending a confirmation that these findings are validated, reflecting the conservative approach to phasing in the start up of this facility. The standard protocol for positive tests in a Maple Leaf plant is immediate product quarantine and remediation through the sanitization programs.

"We are being ultra cautious in this facility," said Mr. McCain, "more cautious than any other plant in North America. Under the circumstances, we consider this to be an appropriate action plan. Listeriosis is an exceptionally rare illness, but we are taking every precaution possible."

Maple Leaf Foods Inc. 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 approximately 23,000 people at its operations across Canada and in the United States, Europe and Asia. The Company had sales of $5.2 billion in 2007.

SOURCE: Maple Leaf Foods Inc.

Media Contact: Linda Smith, (905) 285-6721

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