According to the globeandmail.com, Maple Leaf’s CEO says likely source of listeria found:
“Listeria contamination deep within two meat slicing machines at a Toronto food-processing plant was the likely cause of the recent outbreak of the bacteria that has killed at least 13 people.
Maple Leaf Foods Inc. CEO Michael McCain said at a press conference in Toronto Friday evening that the Formax 180 slicers, on lines 8 and 9 of the company’s Toronto plant, were regularly cleaned but that listeria was found in parts of the machinery “well beyond the [manufacturer’s] recommended sanitation process.”
The slicers, which are about three metres long and two-and-a-half metres tall, have been completely disassembled, and Mr. McCain said that similar measures would be taken with all of the company’s slicing equipment.
He added that despite the discovery of listeria deep inside the machinery, “it’s not reasonable to expect that each piece of equipment has to be disassembled completely prior to use.””
I put the last part of the quote in bold, because I think that is relevant.
I went over to FORMAX site to see if I could get more information on the Formax 180. Given that there is no mention of the particular model on their site, I am assuming that a) it is an older model they no longer support b) it is similar to the newer models.
If I look at some of their new slicing models, like this one, I can see why the CEO of Maple Leaf would say it is “not reasonable to expect that each piece of equipment has to be disassembled completely prior to use”. They look like complex machinery. And I am assuming that complexity allows them to produce sliced meat at a very fast rate.
So, we have machines that are explicitly designed to be highly productive and implicitly designed to be hard to thoroughly clean.
My personal opinion is that I would like the machines to first and foremost be very easy to clean and then be highly productive.
In the meantime, I think I may cut back on my use of processed meat. I’ve already stopped using Maple Leaf Foods meats, but this is not likely a problem associated with just Maple Leaf Foods. I am assuming everyone in this business is using such machines, and all of them have the challenge of being able to clean them.
I also think Maple Leaf Foods and others need to rethink this problem, for their own sakes, as well as that of their customers.