TORONTO —More rigorous testing for Listeria in Canadian ready-to-eat meat plants will be conducted to increase the likelihood of earlier detection, reporting and control of this pathogen by both the federal government and industry, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency announced Feb. 27.

Under the new policy, processors must conduct environmental testing to seek out the presence of Listeria on any surfaces where meat may come in contact; all positive test results from meat sampling or environmental testing must be immediately reported to C.F.I.A.; and the agency will be improving its verification program by increasing the frequency in which it conducts unannounced checks inside of plants, relays The Canadian Press.

Maple Leaf Foods called the government's new Listeria policy "an essential next step towards higher levels of safety in the meat industry," according to a company news release.

"We are encouraged to see the implementation of enhanced standards that will raise food-safety standards across the industry," said Michael McCain, president and chief executive officer. "The best food-safety system involves strong industry participation, with equally strong regulatory standards and oversight.

Maple Leaf Foods recently agreed to pay up to $27 million to settle class-action lawsuits brought against it after a deadly outbreak of listeriosis was traced to one of its processing plants in Toronto. The class actions were launched on behalf of people who consumed or purchased for consumption products that were subject to the recall in August 2008 due to possible contamination from Listeria monocytogenes.

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