Release Date: March 24, 2009
Media Contact: Dale Johnson, External Relations
E-mail: Dale.Johnson@uregina.ca
Phone: 306-585-5439
Mobile: 306-536-4312
Fax: 306-585-4997
Study by U of R researchers finds Maple Leaf Foods handled recall effectively, but many consumers are still concerned about food safety
A new study by researchers at the University of Regina finds that more than two-thirds of people surveyed think Maple Leaf Foods did a good job of handling the recall of its meat products in 2008. The study finds that 69% of respondents who heard about the recall believe Maple Leaf Foods managed the recall well or very well. However, one-quarter of those respondents who had eaten Maple Leaf products before the recall have not bought their products since the recall.

In the summer of 2008 a Canada-wide outbreak of the food-borne bacterial illness listeriosis was linked to a Maple Leaf Foods plant in Toronto. As a result of the illness, 20 people died and dozens of other people were sick. Maple Leaf Foods launched a voluntary recall of all packaged meats from the plant, and the plant underwent intense sanitation.

The research was done by two professors of marketing: Dr. Sylvain Charlebois, associate dean of the Kenneth Levene Graduate School of Business, and Dr. Lisa Watson.

"These results show that effective crisis communications can minimize the impact of an incident like this," says Dr. Charlebois.

The survey was conducted in February 2009, six months after the recall. Dr. Charlebois says that by conducting research six months after an event, long-term impressions of the way an organization planned and managed its responses can be determined, which isn't possible in surveys conducted when the topic is still part of daily news.

Among the findings:

  • 69% of respondents thought that Maple Leaf Foods managed the recall well;
  • of those respondents who had eaten Maple Leaf products before the recall, 25% had not purchased or eaten Maple Leaf products in the six months since the recall;
  • although 90% of respondents had heard about the Maple Leaf product recall, only 8% were aware of the full list of recalled products and 14% had no idea what specific products were recalled;
  • only 25% of respondents who heard about the recall searched for information about the recall.

"I think the findings show that people want to believe Maple Leaf Foods, but it also points out that there is a need to assess how we structure our food safety system, so that consumers are better informed about the safety of food products,"  says Dr. Charlebois.

For further information, please contact:

Dr. Sylvain Charlebois
(306) 337-2695 office
(306) 596-8637 cell
Sylvain.Charlebois@uregina.ca

or

Dr. Lisa Watson
(306) 337-2389 office
Lisa.Watson@uregina.ca