an open letter to Maple Leaf Foods and Michael McCain

For those of you who do not live near me and have not been subjected to seeing the man’s face on your television screens about 25 times a night or reading his open letters in all the newspapers, Michael McCain (no relation to the guy south of the border who is running for president, as far as I know) is the President and CEO of Maple Leaf Foods.  As such, he is currently busy dodging flak dealing with the fact that several people have died eating meat from the Maple Leaf factory which had been tainted with listeriosis.

Dear Maple Leaf:

I do hope the families who have lost people find your recent messaging about the bacteria crisis which arose at your plant 97B comforting. For my part, I find Mr. McCain’s “heartfelt” expressions of sympathy combined with legal @$$-covering to be disingeneous and… well, rather annoying. A prime example of this new “we’re a corporation but we still care about YOU” trend.

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Given all of the talk in the media that it’s going to cost Maple Leaf at least $20million in reimbursements for product recall and God knows what else hush money for relatives of those who died eating some precooked pot roast other expenses related to this crisis, I was flabbergasted to see on CTV News last evening that experts predict there will be no long-lasting damage to you at Maple Leaf – partly, apparently, because of your crisis-management skills.

Colour me stupid, but I really don’t begin to understand how the world of high finance works. However, I do understand that most Canadians will not be buying anything made by Maple Leaf any time soon because of fears (whether justified or not) of contamination – and so it didn’t make sense to me that Maple Leaf would not take a hit.

Until, that is, I had a look at your website (http://www.mapleleaf.ca/Aboutus/default.aspx) and learned that you have some other holdings.   And – lo and behold! – one of those holdings is J.M. Schneider’s Foods!

If I sound catty, it’s because I detest all those Schneider’s Ads featuring an actor playing long-dead Old Man Schneider yakking on about how really Schneider’s is just like a family business, bla bla bla. However, I had also assumed that Schneider’s was actually your biggest competitor – given that they seem to sell the identical line of meats, bacon, frozen foods, etc. to you guys.  (Oh – and it was also interesting to learn that you own Dempster’s breads – so you’ve really got the baloney sandwich market covered here in Canada, eh?)

But instead, I guess that many of those people who want cold cuts but do not want to buy from Maple Leaf any more will end up changing to Schneider’s instead – especially in smaller centres where they lack the choice of goods that I enjoy here in Toronto.

So – and again, I’m rather daft about things financial – it seems to me that you might well end up with more money in your collective pockets as a result of this food scare at Maple Leaf.  But then again, I’m no economist. 

I am, however, someone with a relatively high bullshit meter.   So, phrases like the following, which I read in Mr. McCain’s open letter to the world his customers this morning, make me see red:

This is the toughest situation we’ve faced in 100 years as a company.  We know this has shaken your confidence in us.  I commit to you that our actions are guided by putting your interests first.

As long as “your interests” involve tossing out everything in the deep freeze from Maple Leaf and replacing it with Schneider’s, I guess, eh?

Well, my interest now officially include never buying anything produced by your various outfits again, quite frankly – not because of the bacteria but because I find your approach to the situation rather cynical and calculated.  This might mean I never get to eat cold cuts or bacon again, given that you seem to control the supply. Given my addiction to fondness for bacon in large quantities, this will be not be easy. But I will survive, I’m sure.

And, I would suggest that you, Mr. McCain, amend your little “open letter” to make the link between you and Schneiders a tad more clear. Something like “Our biggest competitor, whom we own, will be happy to take care of your ongoing food needs” would suffice.

Yours very truly,

Kristina M. Brouhaha

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12 thoughts on “an open letter to Maple Leaf Foods and Michael McCain

  1. Amy says:

    See, I’m a little torn. While I firmly believe that they should be held responsible for the mess they’ve created, I really don’t think they they would have ever created this mess on purpose. So what’s a fitting punishment for a very unfortunate…tragic…accident?

  2. Holly, loud and know it all-y, but means well says:

    They should totally be held responsible. There was a big listeria outbreak in the early mid ’90’s in the states.

    At the time I was working as a microbiologist for an evil non lunch meat company…the in trouble for killing people US lunch meat company actually contacted my director to ask for help on how to control spreading listeria.

    We told them to stop spewing raw, rotten meat around finished products.

    I don’t know if the Canadian company is doing the same thing, but really, they should know better. It’s stupid when this kind of crap happens. It’s just wrong. Money and greed.

  3. GG says:

    A few years ago I worked at a very large “business advisory firm” which in turn worked for a number of very large food and beverage manufacturers. If I told you what we did for them you would probably then be able to figure out the company so since I am in the Shh.. don’t tell anyone.. legal profession I can’t say. Anyway you would be stunned how many companies are actually their own competition. Go on Kraft’s website to see how many brands they actually own…Coke, Pepsi, Maple Leaf, Mr. Christie etc. Did you know that whatever ketchup you buy it is most likely actually Heinz. They bottle for no-name brands everywhere. I think that the lesson here is what the heck is in processed meat anyway and why are we feeding that stuff to our frail and elderly in nursing homes? When I look at the brands and type of meats on the recall list I know that I wouldn’t eat it. Those that do obviously make their own choices but should we not be feeding nursing home residents (since they seem to have been the hardest hit) more nutritious foods?

  4. Barb says:

    Excellent post! I just love the way you write. It really is sickening that people who produce our food have nothing on their minds except the all might dollar! Find yourself a good butcher shop and get friendly with the butcher and he/she will give you good uncontaminated food. You may have to pay a bit more, but for your beloved bacon, it would be worth it! And the McCain south of the border is probably this guy’s cousin! ha ha

  5. Lance says:

    Nice post but, you’d be surprised what is in the food no matter where you go… Although I’m upset about how this all came about, I still would buy Maple Leaf Food products only because they show a better level of taking responsibility than some other companies. For one company that puts it to the consumer and can’t be bothered but looks good behind donations, go to :http://oakvillehomes.wordpress.com/2008/10/09/maple-leaf-foods-mccain-vs-mattamy-homes-gilgan-whose-corner-would-you-want-to-be-in/#comments

    You’ll find Mattamy Homes far from honest.

  6. Liliane Jolin Peuvion says:

    Dear Mister Mc Cain,(or the person in charge)
    I am very sorry about what happened to Maple Leaf.
    I was so happy to work for Maple Leaf.
    I was, few years ago, the porte-parole of Maple Leaf during four years,
    and I did a lot of commercials on T.V. Quebec. My name: Liliane Jolin Peuvion.
    The slogan was: C’est Maple Leaf, alors on sait que c’est bon!
    Thew commercials where great! very professionnels!
    Infortunately, I have been sick whit our produts.
    If possible, I would like to receive the amount of $750.00 for
    a sorry incommodation.
    I am sure that Maple Leaf is what is was, now! A lot because of you!

    Dear Sir, receive my best regards.

    Liliane Jolin Peuvion Merry Christmas!

    P.S. If you have the time, can you check those commercials.
    There something there.

  7. Liliane Jolin Peuvion says:

    Dear Mister Mc Cain

    MISS MAPLE LEAF

    IT’S MAPLE LEAF, WE NOW IT’S GOOD!
    C’EST MAPLE LEAF,ALORS ON SAIT QUE C’EST BON!

    Liliane Jolin Peuvion

    Porte-Parole de Maple Leaf au Quebec

  8. Liliane Jolin Peuvion says:

    Dear Mister Mc Cain

    After many changements, serious work, verifications every day,
    Maple Leaf is the Company the most SHURE for meats at this
    moment!

    Miss Maple Leaf Liliane Jolin Peuvion

  9. Liliane Jolin Peuvion says:

    Dear Mister Mc Cain

    The best commercial TV campaign at that moment was mine
    for Maple Leaf.,,,words of (Paul Buissonneau) one of the best critical
    theatre man in Quebec. I can’t forget this homage.

    In those commercials, Stephanie 11 ans et J.P. 4 ans.
    Now,J.P. is 29 years old. I think really that we could work again
    together. Before and after eating Maple Leaf food!

    If you think that this idea is good, I can send photos of all of us.

    I am laughing because. I remember that my son J.P. was on the
    program: Do you look good? Six years ago, J.P. was during two days
    the most beautiful young man of Canada. He fell down his chair.

    Stephanie is a beauty.
    Me,I am 60 years old now.

    MAPLE LEAF MAFES A DIFFERENCE

    Liliane Jolin Peuvion MISS MAPLE LEAF last Porte-Parole

  10. Liliane Jolin Peuvion says:

    Dear Mister Mc Cain

    MAPLE LEAF MAKES A DIFFERECNCE!

    PLEASE…..Mister Mc Cain, publicite is so important for a product!
    I saw commercials for Quebec, it was so poor!
    My most modest opinion.There is no joy, I d’ont feel the family!
    A good creator in Quebec can make all the difference!
    Quebec is still in Canada! Porte-Parole Liliane Jolin Peuvion

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