My dinner with Maple Leaf Foods

It's weird being a mom.  There are so many things I never thought I'd care about or don't know jack about. And one of them is food safety. Yeah, food safety.   Y'know, as in not wiping the door of the fridge with a raw chicken breast like in that Lysol commercial.  And now that I have kids, I find myself being more careful about things (ie tossing leftovers sooner, cleaning the kitchen extra extra well, and ix-naying-ay the chicken-ay as a handi wipie-ay.)

Then last month, I got invited to a Food Safety dinner for bloggers being hosted by Maple Leaf Foods (which, for those of you playing along at home in the USA, is a huge food vendor here in Canada.)  I wasn't going to accept given that I don't normally blog about issues like health and safety, but then I changed my mind--and I'm glad I did. 

To set the stage, let me first say that this dinner took place in the wake of a listeria outbreak that happened at Maple Leaf in 2008.  Upward of twenty Canadians were killed by the bacteria--and since then Maple Leaf has apparently made pledges and strides toward increased food safety. (But shhhh, I didn't really know all that until I researched the company cause as an American I didn't grow up eating Maple Leaf foods, and as a new mom I don't really have a clue what's going on in the world today.  Too tired to read the news!)  The journalist in me was also concerned about the propaganda the company would inevitably throw at us as it tries to rehabilitate its public image.  So let's just say I went into this with grave reservations....

As it turns out, however, I was impressed. Impressed that top-tier execs flew out to Vancouver to meet with bloggers and answered every.single.question we asked.  Impressed that their motto in light of the 2008 debacle is Transparency.  Sure, it's all with the hope of creating good will on a grass roots/viral level...but still.  Not a lot of major corporations would do that--especially those that feel vulnerable to criticism. 

Over the course of the dinner--a Maple Leaf Foods dinner I might add, that was better than I expected it to be--we learned about safer food handling at home (multiple cutting boards, people) and at their plants ("The five-second-rule for things falling on the ground but being okay to eat does not--and never did--apply at Maple Leaf." Whew.).  We also learned about innovations the company is making to make food prep easier for families (ooooh la la.  Check out the self-closing containers for their new Natural Selections products, and those clean ingredients).  

So was there some evil, corporate, hidden agenda at work behind the dinner?  Maybe.  Did I fall for it?  Perhaps a little.  But something Sharon K.K. Beals, the Senior VP of Food Safety & Quality Assurance said really stuck with me.

 "Everybody's got to bring their A-game everyday," she said in reference to the facilities she supervises,  "so that my kids and your kids can have a safe sandwich."

Which makes me think that she knows the raw-chicken-handi-wipe thing isn't a good idea either. And what can I say? I like that in a company now that I'm a mom.