Thursday, August 28, 2008 | 11:08 AM ET
by Amber Hildebrandt, CBCNews.ca
I don't typically buy cold cuts. In fact, I usually avoid them, having hated sandwiches since elementary school.
But, for some reason, I absentmindedly grabbed a package of turkey breast over the weekend, thinking it would be handy to have sandwiches for lunch. This in the midst of listeria hysteria.
I ate a few slices, but haven't touched it since Monday when news about Listeria monocytogenes reached a crescendo.
In the consumer's eyes, all cold cuts have been painted with the same tainted listeria brush, despite only one plant being at the heart of the recall. Consumers are avoiding the deli. Moms and dads are looking for alternative school lunches. Some are tossing all sliced meats and sandwiches from their fridges.
For the past few years, it has become routine for us to watch our neighbours south of the border struggle with massive food recall after massive food recall. But there have been few major outbreaks here in Canada.
In the latest debacle in the U.S., food detectives mistakenly implicated tomatoes in an outbreak of Salmonella, only later tracking it down to a Mexican-grown jalapeno pepper.
The frenzy to rid restaurants and homes of raw tomatoes trickled into Canada and four Canadians became infected. Other headline-grabbing food safety issues in the U.S. involved peanut butter, spinach and beef.
But now the Americans are tuning into hear news of Canada's internal food safety troubles.
The U.S. has actually taken a look at how we address food safety issues.
In a June 2008 report, the U.S. Government Accountability Office examines Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, plus agencies in several other countries.
The report cites Canadian officials as saying one of our most significant outbreaks of food-borne illness was in December 2005 when Salmonella-linked mung bean sprouts caused 300 to fall ill in Ontario.
This latest outbreak has been deadly, but so far only five deaths are linked to the bacteria strain found in the Maple Leafs plant, while 10 other deaths are under investigation.
Though tragic for the friends and families of the victims, these deaths have been few and Canada's food agency says cases of listeriosis are actually quite rare. So the question is: Are we overreacting?
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About the blog
From trends and culture to politics and nutrition, Food Bytes serves up tasty tidbits about food and the issues surrounding it that flavour our everyday lives.
About the writers
Amber Hildebrandt writes for CBCNews.ca in Toronto. Growing up on a farm in Manitoba, she acquired an insatiable appetite, but it was during a stint in Japan that she developed her discerning tastebuds and "foodie" ways.
Andrea Chiu is an associate producer at CBC Radio Digital. Though she loves to eat, cook and discuss food, don't ask her to bake. It never turns out well. She tweets as @TOfoodie on Twitter and organizes food and wine events in Toronto called FoodieMeet.
Tara Kimura is the consumer life reporter for CBCNews.ca, covering a wide range of issues that range from rising food costs and the growing organic movement, to new trends in the marketplace.
Andree Lau is a CBC web reporter in Calgary. Her journalism career includes seven years as a CBC-TV reporter. Her own blog called "are you gonna eat that?" chronicles her eating adventures (including sampling snake and camel hoof tendon).
Jessica Wong is a CBCNews.ca writer who loves to eat and cook, as well as discuss, read and watch programming about food, sometimes all at once.
Kevin Yarr, CBCNews.ca's writer in Prince Edward Island, wrote about food and beer for national and regional magazines before joining the CBC. He acquired a desire for new tastes on his first trip to Europe, and an appreciation of eating locally and in season when he finally settled down on P.E.I.
Elizabeth Bridge is a writer with the CBC Digital Archives in Toronto. She first ventured into the kitchen as a child to indulge a sweet tooth by baking cookies and making fudge. A student budget compelled her to be a vegetarian (for a while) and instilled in her an ongoing curiosity about food and cooking.
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