In 2008, Maple Leaf Foods had a devastating outbreak caused by Listeria contamination at one of its prepared meats facilities. It resulted in 23 deaths and many serious illnesses. Since this tragedy, Maple Leaf Foods has committed to becoming a global leader in food safety and has invested significant people and financial resources in achieving this commitment.

Maple Leaf Foods is a leading consumer protein company, making high-quality, innovative products under national brands including Maple Leaf®, Maple Leaf Prime®, Maple Leaf Natural Selections®, Schneiders®, Schneiders® Country Naturals®, Mina®, Lightlife, and Field Roast Grain Meat Co. .

Maple Leaf is one of Canada’s flagship food companies, with sales of $3.3 billion dollars, employing approximately 11,500 people and does business in Canada, the U.S., and Asia. Maple Leaf is headquartered in Mississauga, Ontario.

Michael McCain, President, and CEO of Maple Leaf Foods and Randy Huffman, Chief Food Safety and Sustainability Officer.

Michael has devoted his career to the food industry, starting at McCain Foods in the late 1970's where he held a variety of roles, including President and Chief Executive Officer of McCain Foods USA.  He joined Maple Leaf Foods in 1995. Since then, he has been instrumental in establishing Maple Leaf as a strong and sustainable, values-based company with leading brands and a bold vision for the future.

Dr. Randy Huffman joined Maple Leaf in 2009 and is currently Chief Food Safety and Sustainability Officer at the company.  This role encompasses Food Safety and Quality, Occupational Health, Safety and Security, Environmental Sustainability and Compliance, Animal Care and Corporate Engineering.  

Randy also leads the company's Food Safety Advisory Council, a team of external experts with the mandate to increase Maple Leaf's access to global knowledge and expertise in food safety, including best practices, regulatory compliance, microbiology, and fostering a food safety culture.

Prior to joining Maple Leaf Foods, Dr. Huffman served as President of the American Meat Institute (AMI) Foundation, as well as Senior Vice President Scientific Affairs for 9 years at AMI. 

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In this episode of Food Safety Matters, we speak to Maple Leaf executives—Michael McCain and Randy Huffman about:

  • What food safety processes and programs Maple Leaf had in place at the time of the 2008 listeriosis outbreak
  • How complacency played a part in Maple Leaf's food safety crisis
  • The steps Maple Leaf took in the hours, days, and weeks after learning of multiple illnesses and deaths
  • How the tragedy led Maple Leaf to make a long-term food safety commitment to be a world leader in the food industry
  • How Maple Leaf's story can help other food companies improve and avoid a similar situation
  • What is believed to be the root cause of Maple Leaf's outbreak
  • The consequences of not properly addressing positive environmental results
  • The benefits of implementing a "seek and destroy" strategy
  • Staying on top of food safety and swab results with a daily conference call that includes executive leadership
  • The critical importance of segregation in ready-to-eat processing facilities
  • What Maple Leaf might do differently if an outbreak or recall were to occur today
  • The establishment of the Food Safety Advisory Council in 2009
  • How they commemorate the outbreak every August, particularly marking the 10-year anniversary in 2018
  • The 10th annual Food Safety Symposium

Maple Leaf Food Safety Symposium
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