In the continuing aftermath of the Listeria outbreak that resulted in 22 Canadian fatalities, Maple Leaf Foods has launched its new "Food Safety At Home" website, aimed at encouraging consumer commitment to food safety procedures and highlighting Maple Leaf's "enhanced food safety protocols". The home page welcome message reads "At Maple Leaf, our commitment to you is that we will do everything we can to make our products safe for you and your family. Just as we take precautions to ensure our products are safe, we encourage you to take precautions while preparing, cooking, and storing food which is your family's best defense against food borne illness."
The website offers consumers a variety of interactive food safety activities - everything from a brief food safety quiz and a food safety plan checklist to a 'virtual kitchen' filled with food safety tips. As well, consumers can visit the Maple Leaf Blog to view food safety updates from company management (including the CEO and the Chief Food Safety Officer), and reply with comments on any posts that are listed there.
Some critics have questioned the lengths of Maple Leaf's actions in light of such a horrific tragedy; although the company has admitted responsibility for the outbreak, the new website also focuses on placing increased responsibility on consumers - right from the home page welcome message (as quoted above). While consumer responsibility can, of course, not be diminished, there is an enormous onus on food-based organizations to provide healthy, safe-tested products to the public. Although the new website also seems to incorporate a large focus on Maple Leaf's improved and enhanced food safety protocols, critics wonder if the company's efforts are too little in light of the fact that 22 lives were lost.
Despite the critics, it appears that Maple Leaf is attempting to take measures to improve their public image and restore consumer confidence in their products. Along with the management blog, examples of Maple Leaf's efforts include the 'Food Safety Action Plan' portion of the website, which features employee food safety testimonials, along with information on Maple Leaf's "enhanced food safety protocols" and product recalls. The enhanced protocols (as detailed on the site) include improved sanitation methods, doubled environmental testing, increased food testing, and stronger recall procedures.
Again, while the website (and Maple Leaf Foods itself) has its critics, it does demonstrate some admitted responsibility from Maple Leaf, and there is certainly no harm in encouraging consumers to be more mindful of food safety procedures - not only at home and in restaurants, but in the retail world as well.
Visit the Maple Leaf 'Food Safety At Home' website at www.foodsafetyathome.ca.
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