Maple Leaf Foods Class Action - October 6, 2008

The number of confirmed deaths linked to the listeriosis outbreak traced to a Maple Leaf Foods meat-packing plant in Toronto has risen to 20.

The death occurred in Ontario, where there has now been 15 deaths where listeriosis linked to the Maple Leaf plant was the underlying or contributing cause, Public Health Agency of Canada officials announced Wednesday.

No other details about the case were provided.

Two deaths have occurred in B.C., as well as one each in Alberta, Quebec and New Brunswick, according to federal figures.

Six deaths across the country are still under investigation.

Listeria monocytogenes can be found in unpasteurized dairy products, raw vegetables and meats, and processed foods, including deli meats and hot dogs. Ingesting the bacteria can cause serious illness, including brain and blood infections that can lead to death. The elderly, infants and people with compromised immune systems are the most vulnerable.

Some of the flu-like symptoms of listeriosis are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, severe headaches, stiff neck and fever. It can take up to 70 days for symptoms to appear after the contaminated food is consumed.

In August, Maple Leaf Foods issued a recall of virtually all the products produced at the Toronto plant after the deadly listeriosis outbreak was made public.

A total of 191 items produced at the plant were recalled during the crisis, costing Maple Leaf an estimated $20 million.

The plant was reopened last month.

Maple Leaf Foods CEO Michael McCain said at the time that his company and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency were satisfied the plant, which closed Aug. 20, could safely resume production.

With files from the Canadian Press