Last week, I had the pleasure of attending a round table discussion with Maple Leaf Foods CEO Michael McCain and Sharon Beals, Sr. VP of Food Safety & Quality Assurance.
As most Canadians know, the Maple Leaf Food brand has suffered over the past years. In 2008, a listeria outbreak in Maple Leaf pre-packaged deli meats caused the death of 22 people. I was pregnant when that happened. I remember, distinctly, not buying Maple Leaf products during this time. I was scared and I was distrustful. I had a child to worry about now, and there was no way that I was going to allow him to be harmed by any food products on my watch.
I've started buying Maple Leaf food products again. Even before attending this roundtable, I came back to a brand that I previously supported and often purchased on my shopping trips. Why? Well, for a few reasons, but mostly because I wanted to support a Canadian company that had promised, over and over, to do better & to be better. And, following this roundtable with Michael McCain, I believe that my decision to purchase Maple Leaf Foods again was correct.
Michael McCain is a CEO for a reason. He is well spoken, he knows his company, and he is well versed in potential issues/questions/PR-friendly moves. He knows what he's doing. However, and this is what struck me and really got me listening, he didn't have to meet with the twenty parenting bloggers at Maple Leaf Food headquarters. But he did and I really respect that. So, yes, it was PR move. Yes, both McCain and Beals were well versed in dancing around some questions (nitrates? eco-friendly packaging? quality control beginning at the farm level?), but they didn't have to be there and they were. They took responsibility (huge pat on the back- we teach our kids to take responsibility for their actions, so should they) and did it without a "but" or "however".
What did I learn? Maple Leaf Foods is truly working to make food safety a top priority. They have introduced a leading Food Safety expert into their team, they are doing consistent and serious testing for listeria and review those tests every single morning at 8:30am, and they are making significant changes in their workforce by creating better training/testing for their employees.
Listeria is everywhere and in everything. We do our part in our kitchens to make sure that listeria doesn't make it into our children's consumable food. Following the 2008 listeria outbreak, I believe that Maple Leaf Foods is now seriously taking steps to ensure that listeria doesn't appear in their products as well. Visit their site to receive more indepth information regarding food safety and Maple Leaf's commitment to it.
So, to Maple Leaf Foods & those other companies out there that all parents trust, thank you in advance for taking your job seriously. Thank you in advance for knowing that no matter how great your ads, how PR savvy you are, how big your profit margins grow, your consumers come first. As one of the parenting bloggers said at our roundtable discussion- we trust you. Don't let that trust be in vain.
Disclaimer: I was invited as a blogger to attend this rountable by Matchstick & Maple Leaf Foods. I received a gift bag for my participation. The thoughts in my post are all my own and not influenced in any manner.