Saturday, August 23, 2008

Canada Issues Updated Information On Listeria Outbreak

Following the progress of a food poisoning investigation in the news media can be frustrating, to say the least. Every reporter has his or her own media sources, and the numbers don't always add up.

This evening, the Public Health Agency of Canada released an update statement on the progress of the investigation. Here are the latest statistics:

  • Contrary to press reports of five fatalities, PHAC has confirmed four deaths so far – three in Ontario and one in British Columbia.
  • Federal and provincial health agencies have confirmed 21 cases of listeriosis linked to the outbreak strain so far – 16 in Ontario, 3 in BC and one each in Saskatchewan and Quebec.
  • There are 30 additional suspect cases awaiting genetic fingerprint confirmation, including 4 in Alberta.
  • PHAC and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency are still waiting for genetic fingerprint results on an isolate of Listeria monocytogenes obtained from Maple Leaf samples before they are prepared to say, definitively, that the company's meat was the source of the outbreak. 
The CFIA has posted a FAQ sheet on its website. Consumers in search of information on Listeria monocytogenes and on the specifics of the outbreak and recall can navigate to the CFIA site for some answers.

There have been suggestions in the news media and in the blogosphere that Canadian government agencies were dilatory during the early stages of this outbreak. But that's a separate story. We'll be reviewing the outbreak time line in the next week or so.

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