Tainted meat at Maple Leaf: Where's old man Schneider when you need him?
Well, I guess JM Schneider has left the smokehouse. At Maple Leaf Foods, CEO MIchael McCain has apologized for the tainted meat related to the outbreak of listeriosis, saying his company will do better in future. Perhaps it's time for advertisers to do better by giving consumers a break.
You've probably seen Schneiders' folksy TV ads that feature a smokehouse employee who says his wife always complains about the smell in this clothes - but, hey, that's the price of quality. The ad is shot like an old-time news reel showing employees working together and the old man himself saying nothing but the best gets past him. Okay, nobody thinks it's a genuine 1920s newsreel, but we do at least expect Schneiders meats come from a Schneiders plant where, in a modern age, employees show the same dedication as in the past. That's the point of the ad: times change, dedication remains the same.
But no. We find out with this tainted meat scandal at least some of Schneiders meat comes off assembly lines at the Maple Leaf plant in Toronto. It's the plant linked to meats contaminated with the listeria bacteria, with Schneiders products on the recall list.
Probably it would be tough to prove lack of truth in advertising in the Schneiders ad. They could argue nobody thinks biting into a piece of gum produces a river of water either. But the ad shows Schneiders meat being prepared at a Schneiders facility - and that's the minimum a consumer should be able to expect. Otherwise, in my book, it's false advertising.
On other fronts too, these awful events have been telling.
If I had any doubts about how the elderly and infirm are being fed in Canadian nursing homes, I don't anymore. They're eating a lot of processed meat.
Ontario has already been hit with stories this year about abuse and neglect in nursing homes in the province and this story confirms most of the 12 people who have died to date fell ill in these facilities. Everybody - and especially older people - require good nutrition. Personally, I don't eat processed meats because I don't like the taste and I know they aren't doing much for me nutritionally. I can't imagine they can be much more for seniors. (And there's the obvious fact some are lethal.)
It was also interesting yesterday to hear Maple Leaf spokeperson Linda Smith saying in a radio interview the Toronto plant was scheduled to reopen today, but that it wouldn't unless they were 100 per cent satisfied everything was safe. Later in the day, Agriculture Minister Jerry Ritz pointed out it's the government's call when the plant reopens, and not the company's. Ms. Smith didn't mention that.
That would be the agriculture minister we're talking about, which begs the question: Where's Tony Clement? The answer is easy: the health minister is in Denver at the Democratic National Convention. The better question is why.
There's kind of a health crisis at home, or doesn't Clement think parents worried about what to put in their children's mouths is a health problem? Sure, there's a role for the agriculture minister, but I'd feel a lot better if the health minister was doing the heavy lifting here. But I've got a hunch his staffers (and/or the PMO?) keep him on a pretty tight leash.
Let me give you an example. Recently, I wanted to talk to Clement about the concerns of Canadians about cellphone safety, as well as the links between the telecommunications lobby and health and industry officials who make regulatory decisions for cellphone use. But I was out of luck. A health ministry spokesperson got back to me to say she didn't feel "too comfortable" having the minister comment on a "scientific" issue.
Funny, he handled the SARS crisis in Ontario well enough.