The government-commissioned Weatherill investigation on last summer’s listeriosis outbreak will release its report Tuesday to the public.
The investigation, conducted by Sheila Weatherill, the former CEO of Edmonton’s Capital Health, follows the outbreak of listeriosis that began last August involving a specific listeria monocytogenes strain that sickened 57 people in seven provinces from B.C. to New Brunswick, including 41 people in Ontario.
The strain was tracked to prepared deli meats from Maple Leaf Foods’ Bartor Road meat plant No. 97B in Toronto.
Among those 57 cases, as of April 17 this year, the listeria strain in question was ruled to be the “underlying or contributing cause” in the deaths of 22 people, including 16 in Ontario alone.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper commissioned Weatherill in January to conduct an investigation into the outbreak and assess how federal organizations and their “food safety partners” responded, she said.
“Ensuring the safety of our food supply is one of the government’s most important responsibilities and as the independent investigator, I felt a strong obligation to find out the circumstances and factors contributing to this outbreak,” Weatherill said in a statement Monday, announcing she had delivered her report to federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.
Weatherill said she “interviewed or met” 100 individuals, including affected family members and representatives of industry, labour and officials from “all levels” of government.
Her report will be released Tuesday at an 11 a.m. ET press conference in Ottawa.
Weatherill’s separate announcement of a public release Tuesday comes at the same time as the federal opposition Liberals asked for the “full, unedited” report to be released to the public.
CTV quoted a spokesman for Harper as saying Monday that the report would not be edited or altered for Tuesday’s release.
Nevertheless, Liberal ag critic Wayne Easter said Monday, “we have concerns about this because of the way this government has handled this matter since Day 1. The report from the government’s hand-picked investigator, with a limited mandate conducted in private, is not sufficient.”
The government, Easter said, has “roadblocked any attempts to provide more transparency about the events of last summer. The Canadian Association of Journalists went so far as to award the Canadian Food Inspection Agency with their 2008 secrecy award, given to reflect the agency’s efforts at preventing the public from learning details about what happened.”
Easter was referring to the CAJ’s “Code of Silence” award, which the association presents each year to Canada’s most secretive government, department or agency. CFIA was presented with the award in absentia at the CAJ’s convention in May in Vancouver.