Trust and the Maple Leaf Food Safety Pledge

Trust.  It’s the hardest thing to build and the easiest thing to break. When grocery shopping, I am very brand loyal. If I like a product, I simply buy it, and don’t give it another thought. I trust that the company will stand behind it knowing that it is nourishing my family.  Very much like I trusted Maple Leaf.  A Canadian company building trust with its consumers since 1927, with a vast array of products, many of which I feed my family on a regular basis.

A 15 sec. TV news segment was all it took to break my trust. In August of 2008, a tragic outbreak of Listeria in Maple Leaf cold cuts resulted in 22 deaths.  Once I heard that, I simply wouldn’t buy Maple Leaf products at all.  I didn’t trust them one bit. Time heals all wounds, but ever since that horrible event, I have been leery of buying Maple Leaf.  Until the other night.  They have been working really hard to regain our trust, and through their Food Safety Pledge, they have successfully regained mine.

Let’s address the elephant in the room right off the bat.  I was invited by Maple Leaf and, along with a group of about 20 Mommy and Daddy bloggers, to learn about the Maple Leafs Food Safety Pledge. The hope was we would then blog about it.  I was a little uneasy about the whole thing, but the reality is Maple Leaf IS doing innovative things in terms of food safety, and I think it’s important for you to know about it. I don’t blow smoke up you-know-where when it’s not deserved.

Now that the elephant has moved on, it was an interesting evening. One thing that sticks in my mind is the feeling of responsibility Maple Leaf foods feels for the deaths from the outbreak. There was never any passing of the buck or pointing a finger elsewhere from ANY of the Maple Leaf employees.  They took the blame and shouldered the responsibility for killing 22 people.  They have also made it their personal and professional objective to be global leaders in food safety.

These are the invisible Listeria bacteria.

I wanted to know how the outbreak could have happened in the first place. So I asked.  And the answer couldn’t have been more simple. I had no idea. Listeria is everywhere.  Did you know that apparently it is in 100 % of kitchens, grocery stores, restaurants and food processing facilities.  HOLY TOLEDO.  I came home and scrubbed my kitchen with disinfectant.  It’s in your kitchen too.  You can’t tell me it isn’t. The reality is Listeria is everywhere, it is ubiquitous. (I learned that word last night, like it?).

So in the Maple Leaf processing plant there was a massive 6 ft high by 12-15 ft long machine.  It was being sanitized and cleaned for 6 -8 hours according to the manufacturers recommendations.  But there was a little ‘doodad’ way deep on the inside that was not supposed to be opened to be cleaned.  So they didn’t open it.  But as it turns out, it needed cleaning.  Because it was the single source of Listeria.  And the results and effects of that ‘doodad’ were devastating.  It is now opened and cleaned every time.

Maple Leaf has taken a Food Safety Pledge.  They have implemented best practices in sanitation, testing, technologies, product formulations and manufacturing. There is a dedication to continuous training and educating employees. They now test all facets of their plants, machinery and people to identify potential risk (over 125,000 tests last year alone). They are the only Canadian food processing company to measure their performance against a Global Food Safety Initiative which is more stringent than the Canadian version. They also openly share their knowledge with the world so others can learn from them. They are, it seems, going above and beyond.

Meeting McCain

I think what was most striking about the whole evening was how personal this process was for Michael McCain, the president of Maple Leaf.

I recall being impressed back in 2008 when he stood up and was the face of the tragedy, personally taking responsibility. He took full responsibility then, and continues to do so now.  The other night the Maple Lead team explained that Food Safety is a mantra that permeates all facets of the company.  And it should be.

After that night, I can tell you that I have a new respect for Michael McCain, for the company and for their products.  I do feel more comfortable moving that logo back into my fridge.  The trust is being rebuilt.

What can we do in our own houses to practice food safety?  These are some of the tips I learned the other night:

  • Wash hands.  Not just during flu season.  Use soap, for crying out loud.  Rinsing just doesn’t cut it. {Pardon the pun re: cold cuts.  I couldn’t resist.}
  • Store meat on the bottom tray of the fridge. That way if there is a leak, there isn’t anything caught in the drip below it. So logical – wish I had thought of it myself!
  • Launder reusable garbage bags. I had never thought of  this.  They can get invisible greeblies in them that are gross.  What’s another load of laundry every couple of weeks?
  • Use a meat thermometer. Nobody needs to eat hockey pucks of meat.  A meat thermometer can help you keep the delicious moist flavor, while ensuring the meat is cooked. I think my family would appreciate the step away from the hockey pucks. So we now have a spiffy new digital thermometer.
  • Keep raw meat and its juices away from cooked meat. Um, enough said.

Maple Leaf asked me to give away a gift bag to one Practicalmum reader.  No, I will not be putting raw chicken boobs through the mail (that’s just weird.).  It is a thermal grocery bag containing a nice apron, digital meat thermometer, spiffy pen, and $25 in coupons for various Maple

This could be yours with one simple entry... How do you practice food safety in YOUR house?

Leaf products.

How to enter?  Simply leave a comment with a food safety tip from your house.  That’s it.

Don’t forget to leave your proper email so we can contact you if you are the winner.

For additional entries to this giveaway, you can:

1 -Become a fan on Facebook. Leave a comment below telling me you’ve signed up.

2 – Follow @practicalmum on Twitter and tweet this giveaway (as many times as you like). (Leave me the link to your tweets below)

3- Become a member of and either post or reply to a question. Leave a comment here telling me you’ve posted.

Giveaway open to Canada ONLY. Ends Monday, June 14th 2010, 9pm EST. Winner will be chosen using and contacted via e-mail with 48 hours to reply or new winners will be chosen.


Just so we’re clear: I was invited to participate in this effort by Maple Leaf and  I was given a gift bag with Maple Leaf products as a thank you.  Maple Leaf has given me the gift bag you can win. I will ship it to the winner.  My opinion was in no way swayed by the gift bags, or the evening.  This is my, and only my, opinion.  I hope you know by now that I say it the way I see it.

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About Shelagh Cummins

Shelagh Cummins is the founder, editor and Mum-in-chief at – an online community parenting resource & blog. She is also the Principal at, a boutique firm specializing in designing, developing and facilitating training for women in business.

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99 Responses to Trust and the Maple Leaf Food Safety Pledge

  1. Twitter: tarasivew
    great suggestions! I remember that commercial from a couple years ago too- I was also impressed with how they totally stepped up and took responsibility.

    My food safety advice? don’t let your toddler change the thermometer dealie in the fridge so that food goes from not cold enough to frozen on a regular basis. That is just not a good idea.

    I may know this from personal experience.


  2. Twitter: tarasivew
    I am already a facebook fan of practicalmum :)

  3. Twitter: tarasivew
    I am a twitter follower and I tweeted this giveaway

  4. Twitter: tarasivew
    I’m a practicalmum member and I’ve left a comment tonight on the cosleeping question :)

  5. Well I’m a commercial caterer so I’ve seen some pretty scary code violations that we won’t get into here for fear your readers will never eat out again. That being said, I have 2 very useful tips for the home cook that sometimes get overlooked and can lead to bacterial build-ups. First is the kitchen sponge. People assume that since its constantly submerged in water and soap that it can’t be a source of contamination. Wrong! Studies have shown that it is the single most contaminated object in the kitchen. Food particles get trapped in between the fibers and because it never gets properly sanitized it can actually cause people to get sick. A daily bleach solution can counter the bacteria but its best to start with a fresh sponge often or use a j-cloth that gets laundered in hot bleachy water 2-3 times a week.

    My second tip deals with the can opener. People never seem to wash their can openers and they let food and liquid dry under the rim which can cross-contaminate the food contained in newly opened cans. It’s a dangerous breeding ground that most people overlook. Think about it – tuna fish, soups, pasta and tomato sauces, fruit juices… yuck! Its a good habit to scrub down your can opener each time its used so its always fresh and sanitized :)

    asmithonline at yahoo dot ca

  6. I’m a fan on facebook (Abby Smith)

  7. Following you on twitter and tweeted
    asmithonline at yahoo dot ca

  8. I posted a question here:
    asmithonline at yahoo dot ca

  9. Twitter:
    In spite of listeria being everywhere, the “kill step” is simply to properly cook food. Many of Maple Leaf products require home cooking, so you don’t need to worry about getting a food born bacteria from food that you properly cook at home (unless you cross contaminate after cooking… using the same knife you cut the raw poultry with before cooking AND not properly sanitizing it!). As you state in your article, using a meat thermometer helps ensure proper cooking but you didn’t draw the linkage that proper home cooking eliminate the bacteria. For foods that are ready to eat, such as deli meats, you don’t cook them at home and hence why Maple Leaf focus so closely on the safety of those products.

    One item that needs some clarification. You state that ML “now tests all facet of their plants” when in fact they were taking surface swab samples in hundreds of locations at all facilities BEFORE the listeria outbreak. The environmental swab testing program exceeded CFIA requirements in 2008, and since the testing protocols were intensified and expanded they continue to exceed CFIA requirements. Maple Leaf was testing long before the outbreak.

    • Twitter:
      Thank you so much for the clarification and info. I, and my readers, sure appreciate your input. I am really glad you popped in.

  10. Morning tweeter
    asmithonline at yahoo dot ca

  11. Twitter:
    I always make sure food it cooked to a safe temp.
    .-= nugglemama´s last blog ..DreamBox Learning K-3 Math ~ Review and Giveaway =-.

  12. Evening tweet
    asmithonline at yahoo dot ca

  13. Daily tweet #1
    asmithonline at yahoo dot ca

  14. Daily tweet #2
    asmithonline at yahoo dot ca

  15. Morning tweet
    asmithonline at yahoo dot ca

  16. Evening tweet
    asmithonline at yahoo dot ca

  17. Daily tweet
    asmithonline at yahoo dot ca

  18. Morning tweet
    asmithonline at yahoo dot ca

  19. I encourage my family to wash their hands and I keep hand sanitizer at work.
    I also cut my daughters meat to make sure it is fully cooked before serving

  20. We have multiple cutting boards that are color coded so we all know which ones we can use for meat and which one is meat free to use for veggies :)

  21. Fan on FB. Natoma H
    natoma at shaw dot ca

  22. Following and tweeted!
    natoma at shaw dot ca

  23. Posted and answer in the teen section!
    natoma at shaw dot ca

  24. My tip is a simple one regarding food in the fridge…..”if in doubt – throw it out!”

  25. I try to make sure that items are stored correctly. Things that need to be frozen or refrigerated are directly put into the correct spot after shopping. I also put non refrigerated items in containers with an air tight seal before they go in the cupboard (ie flour, sugar, pancake mix). When traveling I make sure to put foods in a sealed cooler with lots of ice to keep it cold and fresh.


  26. I like you on facebook – Belinda M


  27. I follow on twitter as Prairiebelle and tweeted


  28. shawna said: On June 6, 2010

    I always have a bottle of hand sanitizer right beside my kitchen sink to zap away germs!

  29. Nic said: On June 9, 2010

    I defrost meat in the fridge, never on the kitchen counter. Thanks for the great review of your evening at Maple Leaf foods.

  30. My food safety tip is to always make sure your counters are cleaning spotless after every use. That goes for the cutting board too.

    thriftycanucks at gmail dot com

  31. I am now a member of this site and left a question entitled Something Different under the dinner recipe section

    thriftycanucks at gmail dot com

  32. I am your friend on facebook now as Kim Coady

    thriftycanucks at gmail dot com

  33. daily tweet

    thriftycanucks at gmail dot com

  34. My tip is to use 2 different cutting boards. One for meat and one for vegetables and fruits.

    formycontests at gmail dot com

  35. I am your friend on facebook as Kim Coady
    formycontests at gmail dot com

  36. I follow you on twitter and tweeted

    formycontests at gmail dot com

  37. I am a member of Practical Mum and responded to a question, What Age Did You Start Your Child in Preschool.

    formycontests at gmail dot com

  38. Make sure hands are washed before and after handling food. Also use different cutting boards one for the meat you are going to cut up and another for the vegetables

    silverneon2000 at yahoo dot com

  39. a fan on Facebook=Londia Smith Berk

    silverneon2000 at yahoo dot com

  40. Follow @practicalmum on twitter=silverneon2000

    and tweeted

    silverneon2000 at yahoo dot com

  41. a member of

    silverneon2000 at yahoo dot com

  42. My food safety tip: keep hand towels separate from those you wipe dishes with.
    marlo_r at hotmail dot com

  43. I follow on twitter as snagglepink
    and tweeted
    marlo_r at hotmail dot com

  44. I’m a member of practicalmom and have posted
    marlo_r at hotmail dot com

  45. tweeted

    thriftycanucks at gmail dot com

  46. I use four different cutting boards, meat/cheese/vegetable/seafood.

  47. I Became a fan on Facebook – Emma B.

  48. I Follow @practicalmum on Twitter and tweet:

  49. Judi said: On June 12, 2010

    I am a member.It is always important to keep foods at their prpoper temperature when storing.I have a thermometer in the fridge,which I check regularly to make sure the fridge is within the right temp.

  50. tweeted

    thriftycanucks at gmail dot com

  51. I always make sure to keep the kitchen clean, don’t let dirty dishes pile up etc, so we are no spreading germs and bacteria.

  52. avon said: On June 13, 2010

    I always make the kids wash their hands, multiple times a day, using soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.

  53. tweeted again

    thriftycanucks at gmail dot com

  54. tweeted again

    thriftycanucks at gmail dot com

  55. I always use separate cutting boards for meat & other produce

  56. fan on FB
    Suzquiz E

  57. tweeted

    thriftycanucks at gmail dot com

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