August 20, 2008 / 9:40 PM / 9 years ago

Maple Leaf Foods recalls deli meats, closes plant

WINNIPEG, Manitoba, Aug 20 (Reuters) - Maple Leaf Foods Inc (MFI.TO) said on Wednesday it is recalling packaged deli meats and temporarily closing the Toronto plant where they were made after some were found contaminated with listeria bacteria.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said the voluntary recall by Maple Leaf, one of Canada's largest meat processors, involved processed meat sold across the country to restaurants, hospitals, nursing homes, and retail and deli counters.

Two of the recalled Maple Leaf products were identified during an investigation into an outbreak of listeriosis, a type of food poisoning, said Garfield Balsom, a spokesman for the CFIA.

Since June, 17 Canadians have become ill with the same strain of listeriosis, mainly in Ontario, where one affected person died, a Public Health Agency of Canada spokesman said.

"The source of the outbreak has not been identified yet. This is what the investigation will determine," said Philippe Brideau.

Listeriosis can cause fever, muscle pain, nausea and diarrhea, and is a particular risk for pregnant women, the elderly, infants and people with weakened immune systems.

The federal food safety agency sampled some Maple Leaf beef products and found the bacteria, but has not determined whether it is the same strain that caused the outbreak, the CFIA's Balsom said.

"We have not really linked these particular products to the outbreak, however our investigation is continuing," he said.

"We have to look at all the food that's been consumed ... and make sure we have the right product," he said.

Maple Leaf began its recall of Sure Slice products on the weekend, then voluntarily expanded the recall on Wednesday to include 23 products made since June 2 on the same production lines, the company said.

The expanded recall included a sliced turkey breast product sold to McDonald's (MCD.N).

Maple Leaf said it closed the Toronto plant to clean equipment and review its food safety procedures.

Its shares were down 11 Canadian cents at C$10.59 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Wednesday. (Reporting by Roberta Rampton; editing by Rob Wilson)

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