Blog: Dean BestCould food scare blow Maple Leaf off course?

Dean Best | 22 August 2008

Michael McCain, boss of Canadian food giant Maple Leaf Foods, calls it "Destination 2010".

Destination 2010 is the company's project to overhaul its business, restructuring its meat and bakery businesses in a bid to focus on its brands and boost growth.

The overhaul has proved problematic in the face of soaring commodity costs and last month, after a slump in first-half earnings, analysts were speaking of a “very challenging” short-term outlook for the company.

This week, that outlook has got cloudier amid speculation that the company could be involved in a listeria outbreak in its domestic market. Listeria has been detected in two Maple Leaf products and the company has closed a plant in Toronto as it reviews its food safety procedures. More than a dozen people have fallen ill and there has been one confirmed fatality – although there has yet been no confirmed link to Maple Leaf.

Nevertheless, the episode could shake consumer confidence in Maple Leaf, just when it is going through its major restructuring process.

The threat to Maple Leaf could be much worse if a link is identified and, although the company should be praised for its proactive steps so far, it remains to be seen just how much the outbreak could dent its reputation among consumers.

(Editor's note: just-food is closed on Monday 24 August. Public holiday here in the UK. Best get the raincoat out).


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