Maple Leaf Listeria Recall 2008 – Michael McCain

Jan 9, 2009 update: Here is a 2008 Dec Report on Business article “The Testing of Michael McCain” that is worth reading.


Maple Leaf Foods CEO message on YouTube

Maple Leaf Foods CEO message on YouTube

Dear Mr. Michael McCain,

Maple Leaf Foods is embattled in a serious crisis with the confirmed Listeria cases (29) and deaths (12) (CBC with video) (see CTV news report and video here) (see NYT report here). You need no one to remind you that your company’s and your behaviour in the coming days and weeks will have the potential to make or break your company’s brands and reputations.

First off, I commend you and your PR team in accepting responsibility. “Tragically, our products have been linked to illness and loss of life. To those people who are ill, and to the families who have lost loved ones, I offer my deepest and sincerest sympathies“, said Michael McCain. “Words cannot begin to express our sadness for their pain.” And even using tools like YouTube video to get your message out.

Reading some of the strongly worded comments on your YouTube video initially lead me to question why would you leave the comment open. But then I soon come to the conclusion that it was the right thing (and probably the only thing) to do. The least you can do is to let some rightfully angry people scream and swear at you. And you can use the comments to gage the responses and anger of people.

In some sense, early positive comparison of what you are doing to what J&J did in the 1982 Tylenol poison crisis is a good indication that you are handling this tragic crisis with a right approach.

We still don’t know how far and how much worst will this crisis and class action lawsuits (according to CBC 1,100 has joined) get so I will let you get back to get things back on track.

Good luck to you and us all,


P.S. I just noticed that Maple Leaf Foods YouTube Channel was created on three days ago on Saturday August 23, 2008.

P.P.S. Here is my take on the class action lawsuit.

P.P.P.S. Here is a business note. This sad tragedy reminds us why the “Risk Factors” section is an integral component of the Management’s Discussion and Analysis of a company’s annual report (MFI 2007 annual report PDF). (emphasis added)

Food Safety and Consumer Health

The Company is subject to risks that affect the food industry in general, including risks posed by food spoilage, accidental contamination, product tampering, consumer product liability, and the potential costs and disruptions of a product recall. The Company actively manages these risks by maintaining strict and rigorous controls and processes in its manufacturing facilities and distribution systems and by maintaining prudent levels of insurance.

The Company’s facilities are subject to audit by federal health agencies in Canada [K: seems to be insufficient and not working in this case.] and similar institutions outside of Canada, and performs its own audits to ensure compliance with its internal standards, which are generally at, or higher than, regulatory agency standards. However, the Company cannot guarantee that compliance with procedures and regulations will necessarily mitigate the risks related to food safety.

9 Responses to Maple Leaf Listeria Recall 2008 – Michael McCain

  1. The Dave says:

    I agree with this except for one thing. The Tylenol Crisis was a whole PR campaign to promote Tylenol’s “Safety Caps”. The incident never even took place. This was before the whole media boom and the reporters on this case were not even real ones. No one ever saw the families nor what region where the cases broke, although there were different theories in that. The case is one of the first thing you learn about in Public Relations in University with the saying that “there is no such thing as bad publicity”. Tylenol’s numbers tripled after a year…

    Maple Leaf is, of course, in a different situation. But you can’t mix these two cases as their are, virtually, not the same.

  2. The Dave says:

    Small clarification, when I meant region. We know its Chicago, but nothing was really filmed as to the exact location.

  3. kempton says:

    If Wikipedia is to trust, in 1982, seven people “died after ingesting Extra Strength Tylenol medicine capsules which had been laced with potassium cyanide poison.” Of course, one can argue that it was not negligence of Tylenol that its pills got poisoned.

    The important thing is some people are comparing the handling by Maple Leaf Foods and J&J and that is a positive sign because ultimately Tylenol recovered.

    Of course, it is too early to tell how much and how deeply Maple Leaf Foods will be impacted.

  4. Errol Semple says:

    A better comparison is the Sara Lee Corp. (Bil Mar Foods) recall of hot dogs and luncheon meat because of listeria contamination in December 1998 (ten years ago). Sara Lee killed 21 people and pled guilty to producing and distributing an adulterated food product.

  5. kempton says:

    Hi Errol,

    Thanks for sharing your comment. I am not aware of the Sara Lee Corp. (Bil Mar Foods) recall.


  6. Robin Jerowsky says:

    I feel great sympathy for those who are ill, or had a death.
    Myself, am fortunate nothing has happened to cause disorder
    in my life due to this out break.
    Ive used Mapleleaf products for forty some years, and continue to,
    with full trust in the product. I have been eating Mapleleaf bologna and bacon,
    daily for weeks. I’m still here.
    All major food companies have their time with the devil, and always over
    come it.
    Thanks Mapleleaf!!

  7. kempton says:

    Lucky for you. I used Mapleleaf products too and I was ok. But the problem MapleLeaf food has is with those that got sick (the old and the young).

  8. lasdk says:

    I think Micheal did an excellent job dealing with the situation and informing the public. I will 100% eat maple food again.

%d bloggers like this: