The fall-out of last year's listeria recall continues to weigh on Maple Leaf Foods, the Canadian food group, which today (29 April) booked a drop in first-quarter earnings.

Maple Leaf, which last year found itself at the centre of nationwide listeriosis outbreak, said its first-quarter adjusted operating earnings were down 5% on the year at C$32m (US$26.6m) due to lower margins from its packaged meats business.

Sales for the first quarter rose by 6.3% to C$1.3bn compared to C$1.2bn last year, reflecting price increases and the benefit of favourable foreign currency changes on fresh meat sales, Maple Leaf said.

The company saw better earnings from its bakery business. Adjusted operating earnings from that division rose to C$19.5m from C$17.2m a year ago.

However, profits from Maple Leaf's UK business fell during the first quarter. The company said the recession had been "more pronounced" in the UK than its other markets.

"Our bakery businesses have largely rebounded from the commodity impacts of last year," Maple Leaf president and CEO Michael McCain said.

The Maple Leaf boss said the company's restructuring protein business was "yielding ongoing benefits".

However, McCain admitted the group was still feeling the impact of last year's listeriosis outbreak.

"Results in the first quarter were overshadowed by depressed margins in our packaged meat operations, as we continue to recover from the major product recall last year," said McCain. "While volumes improved, which was our first priority, margins will take longer to restore."