22 May 2010

They Have A Heart

As you know earlier this week I was invited to attend a round table with Maple Leaf Foods to talk about the tragic summer of '08 Listeria outbreak that claimed the lives of 23 Canadians.

My expectation was a bunch of suits with a PowerPoint presentation talking about statistics, perhaps finding a way to pass the buck. My expectation was that there would have been very little real change. My expectation was that Maple Leaf Foods would portray themselves as any other faceless, cold corporation.

I was wrong.

Keep in mind when Love (my youngest son) died from a bacterial infection he got from the hospital there were 6 hospital reviews. I sat in meetings with hospital staff who were cold and skated around issues. They lied and contradicted themselves often. My experience told me this round table would be the same, but it wasn't.

As Sharon began to speak what became apparent was the heart of this company. You could see the human side, that everyone was deeply affected by the tragedy that had passed and that the heart of this company was to ensure nothing like this happens again.

Well and not just that it doesn't happen within Maple Leaf Foods again, but that lives aren't lost over this within any company. There have been other outbreaks in Canada since 2008 within different companies and it was refreshing to see that Maple Leaf takes that step to contact the companies to share what they have learned to prevent this from occurring again. They truly are doing everything they can to be the global leaders in this area.

When my son died I can tell you for 100% that the hospital was not following protocol and that is what ultimately led to his death. With Maple Leaf I have to say people need to know, they were following protocol. They were doing everything they were supposed to and yet this tragedy still occurred.

You may not be aware of this but the slicer that was spreading the listeria, it was being cleaned to manufacturers specs. There was one small seal, about the size of a loony, that they were told if they broke the entire machine would not be covered by warranty. Behind that one little seal laid the culprit that was spreading this deadly bacteria.

How easy it would have been to have laid all responsibility with the manufacturer of this piece of equipment.

This is where my respect comes in. They took responsibility. Maple Leaf foods had the courage that seems all but forgotten these days to stand up and say, I am sorry.

How could I not respect a company that can accept responsibility when something goes wrong even after everything they did was right? Especially after I watched the hospital do everything wrong and never accept responsibility, only make excuses and lie.

My readers did ask a few questions and I would like to answer those now.
How are products transported?
They are transported by refrigeration trucks. Many of these trucks have temperature recorders in them to ensure they maintain a healthy temperature. Some companies such as Walmart have a protocol that they are to take the temperature upon receiving any goods.

How are staff trained?
Maple Leaf Foods is currently piloting a new training system that works kind of like a Wii. Each staff is given a controller and they are asked a question or given a scenario and they need to use their controller to select the correct answer. If one of them gets it wrong a second similar question or scenario is given to try again. Instructors know who answered which questions right or wrong and are then able to work with them on that. Oh and apparently there is a lightening round at the end!

Wow way to keep it interactive and make sure everyone is paying attention!

Oh yes and if you are curious there is annual training for all employees or more often as needed. As well there is a weekly 10 minute safety meeting each week.

How do you connect with stores to ensure things on their end are done correctly?
OK I have something much lengthier written out but I was writing so fast even I can't read it lol sorry! I can tell you they have presentations with the different stores such as Overwaiti

What has changed and why were these things not being done before?
This one is long so I'm going to use the point system.
-Slicers all replaced
-Visual Pinpoints
-Physical Barriers between stations to help prevent any spreading
-120,000 tests performed last year (that's 70,000 more than CFIA required)
-8:30am everyday there is a phone call that takes place to talk about test results from previous day
-Ethics phone line in place for employees in case they have concerns

There was more that I'm not going into right now but if you want more details follow this link

Before this outbreak they were following everything they were supposed to, as it turns out Canadian Food processors haven't been under a lot of stringent code, there perhaps hadn't been the need until now. Maple Leaf has been hunting down to learn more about best practices to ensure this doesn't happen again within any organization.

Did you do anything for the families of those who died or for those that got sick?
While they were unable to openly to discuss this I can say that there was a lawsuit settlement for both the families who lost someone and also for those who had lost wages from the illness.

What measures are in place to keep everyone accountable and following protocol?
With rigorous testing in place they are able to keep a close eye on employees. They did things like set up an ethics phone line for any employee who notices that perhaps someone isn't following protocol. If someone isn't playing by the rules it's simple, they are fired. Public safety comes first.

Maple Leaf Foods is claiming to have taken a leadership role, How are they passing along what they have learned?
Well for starters they hosted a symposium to share what they learned with other food processors, 125 people shared data including CFSI.

Maple Leaf has also called the competition if they had an outbreak or recall to see how they can help and also to pass on more information.

They have raised the bar for acceptability and are going to be the first regulated under the BRC or British Retail & Consortion. Essentially to be ready for Audit everyday because this would ensure that the plants would not know when to expect an audit.

I attended this round table with rather low expectations. I have to be honest I have never gone out of my way to buy Maple Leaf products, but in the end they gained a customer.


Wendy Irene said...

My heart aches for your loss. I love that you now put your heart into words for others to see! <3

This Mom said...

Just wanted to let you know that I'm your newest follower. Found you on the Canadian Mom Blogger site. Looking forward to getting to know you!

Kate @ This Mom Loves

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