Meat product recall widens to sandwiches sold at Safeway, Mac's

A Calgary-based company has added over two dozen of its ready-made sandwiches to a widening recall of meat products over concerns the meat might be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

Safeway, TakeAway Cafe brand sandwiches sold in Sask., Alberta stores

A Calgary-based company has added over two dozen of its sandwiches to a widening recall of products over concerns the deli meat might be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency issued a statement early Monday that Lucerne Foods was recalling 28 varieties of sandwiches because some contained Maple Leaf Foods deli meats involved in a massive recall last week.

The sandwiches are sold under the Safeway and TakeAway Café brands at Safeway and Mac's Convenience Stores in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Lists of the recalled sandwiches and other meat products are available on the CFIA's website.

There have been no reported illnesses associated with the consumption of the sandwiches, the agency said.

More cases of listeriosis expected

Maple Leaf temporarily closed one of its Toronto plants after the bacterium was found on some of its products.

Laboratory tests have conclusively linked some of the products to the deaths of four people, three in Ontario and one in B.C.

There have been 21 confirmed cases of listeriosis in British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan, and 30 cases remain under investigation.

On Sunday, federal Health Minister Tony Clement said the number of cases is expected to rise, since people can be infected for a length of time before showing symptoms.

Symptoms of listeriosis — which include high fever, severe headache, neck stiffness and nausea — occur up to 70 days after consuming contaminated food, though the average incubation period is 30 days, the federal food agency said.

Clement's comment came a day after government lab tests showed a conclusive link between the bacteria strain in the listeriosis outbreak to one in some food products recalled by Maple Leaf Foods.

The test results prompted the company to expand its voluntary recall to all 220 products made at the Toronto plant as a precautionary measure.

Plant's reopening delayed

The scheduled reopening of the Bartor Road Maple Leaf plant on Monday was postponed to Tuesday due to transportation problems shipping out products so all rooms could be cleaned, company spokeswoman Linda Smith said.

Smith said the problem is a "very localized situation specific" to two of the facility's production lines, which have been dismantled and sanitized under the supervision of microbiologists.

She acknowledged that inspectors failed to detect listeria in this case, but they are constantly swabbing for the bacterium.

"Did we find it? Absolutely not. We did not find that listeria," she said.

"Did we let people down? Yes. But we were doing the right things."

Smith said Maple Leaf's practices "meet or exceed regulatory standards by a substantial margin."

"We're inspected regularly by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. All of our plants are federally registered, the highest level of food safety in Canada and they have full-time inspectors on site," she said.

Rick Holley, a food science professor with the University of Manitoba, said he wasn't surprised to learn of the listeria outbreak since Canada's tracking of food-related illnesses is inadequate.

"I am constantly troubled by the lack of surveillance information on food-borne and water-borne illnesses in Canada," said Holley.

He said the United States tracks down each type of food-borne illness, resulting in safer practices and better detection.

Maple Leaf Foods estimates the recall will directly cost the company at least $20 million, with further losses expected due to lost sales and advertising to rebuild its image.

Source of contamination may never be found

Products affected by the widened recall cover a range of nearly three dozen brands, including Artisan Collection, Best Value, Bittners, Boston Pizza, Burns, Campfire, Compliments, Coorsh, Country Morning, Equality, Foodservice, Harmonie, Hickory Farms, Hygrade, Kirkland Signature, Maple Leaf, Mayfair/Marque, McDonald's, Mitchell's, Mr. Sub, No Name, Northern Best Value, Olympic, Overlander, Parma, Pizza Nova, Rouyn, Safeway, Schneiders, Shopsy's, The Butcher's Cut, Tim Hortons, Western Family and Westfair.

The recalled meats bear the establishment number of the Toronto facility, 97B, on their packages next to the best before or packed on dates. That establishment number will not appear on the sandwiches.

People most at risk include newborns, the elderly, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems, public health officials said. The public should wash produce and avoid unpasteurized milk and dairy products, the CFIA advised.

Public health and company officials said the source of the contamination may never be found since listeria is so widespread and commonly found in the environment, such as in soil and in water.

A list of recalled sandwiches
 Product  UPC Best before date (up to and including date)
 Safeway brand Gold Standard Sandwiches:
 Lumberjack (whole)  58200 00460  Aug. 25
 Lumberjack (half)  58200 00462  Aug. 25
 Lumberjack (quarter)  58200 00464  Aug. 25
 Ciabatta Club  58200 00472  Aug. 25
 Beef and Blue Cheese Foccacia  58200 00490  Aug. 25
 Italian Foccacia  58200 00480  Aug. 25
 Italian Hoagie  58200 00486  Aug. 25
 Traditional Hoagie  58200 00476  Aug. 25
 Basic Sub  58200 00466  Aug. 25
 Black Forest Ham and Swiss Cheese  58200 00470  Aug. 25

 Roast Beef and Cheddar

 58200 00474  Aug. 25
 Turkey and Havarti  58200 00468  Aug. 25
 TakeAway Café brand Mac's sandwiches
 Roast Beef Submarine  89048 03110  Sept. 3
 Pizza Submarine  89048 03108  Sept. 3
 Our Super Submarine  89048 03109  Sept. 3
 Chicken Club Sub  89048 03111  Sept. 3
 Hoagie Sub with Sausage  89048 03107  Sept. 3
 Sirloin Pepperjack (small)  89048 03118  Aug. 28
 Sirloin Pepperjack (large)  89048 03119  Aug. 28
 Monterey Jack Chicken (small)  89048 03121  Aug. 28
 Monterey Jack Chicken (large)  89048 03120  Aug. 28
 Meat Lover's (small)  89048 03117  Aug. 28
 Meat Lover's (large)  89048 03116  Aug. 28
 Ham and Cheese  89048 03123  Aug. 28
 Sirloin Kaiser  89048 03124  Aug. 28
 Chicken Kaiser  89048 03125  Aug. 28
 Chicken Wrap  89048 03126  Aug. 28
 (Source: CFIA list of recalled sandwiches. A list of the 220 recalled meats is also available here.)

With files from the Canadian Press