The outbreak of listeriosis in tainted meats has left local sellers tight-lipped about the effects on business and future dealings with suppliers.
A survey by the East Toronto Observer of five local grocery chain outlets found none willing to speak about the food-borne outbreak traced back to cutting machines at Maple Leaf foods, which to date has claimed 18 lives across Canada.
Only one independent grocery store manager spoke up. She said her faith in Maple Leaf has not wavered.
“What has happened was totally unintentional and I think it’s really truly unfortunate for a reputable company like Maple Leaf,” says Donna Patterson, one of the managers at Highland Creek Supermarket.
Patterson says her store did not carry any of the recalled products, and has not been affected financially, but she’s confident in Maple Leaf and will continue to stock what she already carries.
“Within 24 hours of the recall notice going out we had three inspectors in here,” Patterson says. “One of them was a Maple Leaf representative directly coming in to make sure we did not have any Maple Leaf product.”
But will Maple Leaf’s formal apology and acceptance of blame over the outbreak on television mitigate what’s happened?
University of Toronto Scarborough management professor Pallavi Sodhi says this was their only option and such a sincere apology reaches out to the public.
“The economic hurt will be there, but short lived,” Sodhi says. “It is now critical to manage consumer expectations to sustain the new promises made in light of the apology.”
Sodhi says Maple Leaf’s strong brand name will prevent long-term damage for the company, along with the fact consumers are unwaveringly trusting of brands they’ve grown to know well.
“Being a leader will help Maple Leaf withstand this loss and I, for one, am glad the apology was made,” Sodhi says.
East Scarborough resident Jeff McCarthy’s grandfather passed away from a listeriosis infection 11 years ago in an unrelated incident. However, he isn’t going to boycott Maple Leaf products for their part in the most recent outbreak.
“It’s an isolated incident so they shouldn’t have to suffer so much economically,” McCarthy says.
Although he doesn’t regularly eat the products that were recalled, McCarthy says he will still purchase such Maple Leaf products in the future.
Other locals aren’t as forgiving.
Shopper Alfred Persaud is adamant on steering clear of Maple Leaf products. He’s quite particular on where he buys his meat and isn’t the type to give suppliers second chances.
“I want to know what I’m buying and who’s been handling it,” Persaud says.