Maple Leaf Foods

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In the summer of 2008 there was a widespread outbreak of listeriosis linked to deli meats produced in a Maple Leaf Foods, Inc. (Maple Leaf) plant in Toronto, Canada. The outbreak claimed over 20 lives and sickened hundreds. This reaction paper will take a deeper look at the crisis, analyze the company’s response, and address ethical issues related to the case such as responsibility, honesty, and transparency. Similar cases involving recalls made by Menu Foods, Tylenol and Mattel will be discussed as a contrast.

Listeriosis is an infection caused by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. Listeria is a common bacterium found in all sorts of food plants but is dangerous at high levels, especially for adults over fifty, pregnant women, newborns, and people with a weakened immune system. The listeria at Maple Leaf was found in two of its industrial sized slicers. The experts believe it was buried deep inside the machines where it couldn’t be cleaned during sanitation. Hospitals and retirement homes were providing the contaminated Maple Leaf meats to their patients and residents respectively. Seniors, vulnerable to the bacteria, became ill and some eventually died.

Michael McCain, Maple Leaf’s CEO, offered a sincere apology immediately after the officials confirmed the link between the outbreak and Maple Leaf products. He described the crises as “the toughest situation we’ve faced in the 100 years of this company’s history.” He then, as a precaution, expanded the recall to include all 220 products produced at the Toronto plant. The costs were estimated at $20 million.

So who was responsible? Obviously, the listeria was linked back to Maple Leaf, but what about the regulators? Shouldn’t they have set more stringent policies to prevent such occurrences? Or maybe situations like this can’t be avoided since listeria can’t be fully eliminated from food plants like Maple Leafs. Maybe the hospitals or retirement homes should be more careful with the...
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