Maple Leaf Foods, the Canadian food group, has restarted production at the facility at the centre of the recent listeria outbreak that killed at least 17 people and led to a nationwide recall of deli meat products.

The company said yesterday (17 September) that production at the plant in Toronto had resumed, some five weeks after it closed the site following the outbreak.

The Bartor Road facility had undergone "six intensive sanitisations, well beyond normal cleaning practices, while slicing equipment had been disassembled and deep cleaned. All the work undertaken had also been inspected by the Canadian food safety watchdog before the site was given the green light to resume production, Maple Leaf said.

"This plant has undergone intensive investigation, deep sanitisations and testing to ensure that the listeria contamination linked to the recent outbreak has been eradicated," president and CEO Michael McCain said.

"Throughout this incident we have steadfastly placed consumers' interests first. Now we must completely restore their confidence in the quality and integrity of our products."

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is initially allowing Maple Leaf to resume production on a limited trail basis and will test each batch before allowing any products to go on sale.

While 17 fatalities have been directly linked to the outbreak, a spokesman for the Public Health Agency of Canada told just-food that there are another seven deaths under investigation.

In all, there have been 47 confirmed cases of listeriosis linked to the outbreak, with another nine cases under investigation.