The death toll from the listeriosis outbreak is now at 12 - with six confirmed, and another 6 suspected - and the number of possible cases has topped 26, eleven of which are from Ontario.
The figures were confirmed Monday by Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency as the Maple Leaf Foods investigation continues.
It's not that anything has really changed since the previous numbers were released. It's more that officials have now widened the criteria they're using to count the victims, allowing for more possible deaths and more potential cases.
Ritz is warning those numbers are expected to climb as the incubation period continues to lengthen. It can take up to 70 days before symptoms show up in the most vulnerable.
"It is important to note that all the suspect cases have been diagnosed with listeriosis but it is only via laboratory testing, the generic fingerprint, that they determine if they are directly linked to this particular outbreak strain," Ritz explains. "We fully expect that both the numbers of suspected cases and confirmed cases will increase as this investigation continues and samples continue to be tested."
Why the big shift and dramatic increase in death assessments?
"It may seem like a huge jump," agrees CityNews Medical Specialist Dr. Karl Kabasele. "Going into the weekend, we were talking about 3 or 4 deaths. Now we're talking 12. The reason is a change in the definition of what constitutes a death related to this outbreak.
"Previously we were only talking about people for whom the coroner or another physician may have said the official cause of death was literiosis. Now that definition has been expanded and we're talking about anyone for whom listeriosis was a contributing factor to their death."
It means they may not have died directly from the bad bug but could have had it when they expired from something else.
All this comes as one of the largest product recalls in Canadian history continues, a call back that's costing the company at the centre of it millions of dollars.
Maple Leaf Foods has taken out huge ads apologizing for the crisis and is trying hard to make what amends it can.
"When listeria was discovered in the product, we launched immediate recalls to get it off the shelf. Then we shut the plant down. Tragically our products have been linked to illnesses and loss of life. To Canadians who are ill and for the family who have lost loved ones, I offer my deepest sympathies," Michael McCain, Maple Leaf Foods president, revealed in a televised statement. (See it here.)
There are now 220 products on the recall list after the Canadian Food Inspection Agency confirmed the company's plant near Sheppard Ave. and Highway 401 as the source of a recent outbreak of the bacteria listeria monocytogenes, which can cause the illness listeriosis.
Among the brands listed among the recalled items - Maple Leaf, Equity, Schneiders, and Shopsy's. They all have a key code of establishment 97B on them.
However, Shopsy's restaurants are not affected.
"Shopsy's Deli Restaurants is a different company than Maple Leaf Foods. We do share the trademark and they do package some foods under the Shopsy's brand but we do not serve those meats in our deli sandwiches at the restaurant," reiterated company president Gavin Quinn.
The North York plant was closed last week for disinfection, and if it passes strict tests it could reopen Tuesday.
"How it (listeria) got there or where exactly it is in that equipment, we may never know," admits Maple Leaf foods Linda Smith.
"That's why we instituted this much broader recall of 220 products, even though we don't have test results that say there might be listeria there. If there is a doubt, if there is a possibility, and we understand it's extensive in a long line of products and to consumers we apologize about that because we know many of them are checking products, and it's a process.
"We just want to do the right thing. And over time, consumers will make their own decisions."
The recall affected a number of restaurants as well, including McDonald's, Mr. Sub, Tim Hortons, and Boston Pizza. All have removed the meats from their menus.
The CFIA was first made aware of the problem on August 4. Federal Health Minister Tony Clement said the government response to the outbreak was appropriate, even though some complained it took too long from the time suspicions arose to the recall notice.
"The surveillance system picked up a problem that was occurring and allowed us to respond efficiently and effectively to an emerging public health issue," Clement said in a news conference Sunday.
Clement said it was tragic that four people died but noted "this is an example of where our surveillance system worked."
McCain estimated the recall would cost the company $20 million - ten times the original figure estimated when the list of recalled products was about two dozen. He said the decision to expand the recall was for safety reasons after the link was made between the listeriosis outbreak and the GTA plant.
"We felt, given the new information, we had to take the most conservative approach possible, and recalled 100 per cent of the production from the entire facility," McCain said.
"We have an unwavering commitment to keeping our food safe with the standards that go well beyond regulatory requirements," he added. "But this week, our best efforts failed and for that, we are deeply sorry."
That $20 million figure does not include the possible lawsuits that may follow from the families of those who got sick or perished from the outbreak.
Consumer confidence has definitely taken a hit.
"I'm cautious now when I'm shopping, for sure," said one Torontonian.
When CityNews asked another shopper if they would buy Maple Leaf products in the future, she quickly responded, "Probably not."
There's also a list on the CFIA site - click here to see it.Source
A possible non-radioactive sterilization remedy:
Large area electron source
 Electron beams can be used to sterilize medical instruments, food and packaging. Irradiation by electrons is an accepted medical treatment for certain skin cancers. Environmental uses are cleaning flue gasses and decontamination of medical waste. Industrial applications are drying of inks and polymer crosslinking.
Referring to FIG. 8, there is illustrated a method for irradiating objects, such as mail 802, which may pass underneath the electron source 801 on a conveyor belt 803. The electron beams will pass through the envelope. Some energy may be lost at each surface of the letter killing or rendering harmless bacteria or virus species or toxic or other dangerous chemical compounds. Even though the figure shows an electron beam being applied from one side only onto the object, a plurality of e-beam soures can be utilized to arradiate the object 802 from different angles.
So, perhaps Nano-Proprietary, now called Applied Nanotech Holdings, Inc. (APNT), has the answer. And no radioactivity (which disturbs consumers!) is involved.
Applied Nanotech contact details:
Investor Relations Contact
3006 Longhorn Blvd., Suite 107
Austin, TX 78758