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Howdy, all.  I’m doing a bit better today, for which I am thankful.

But I’m not writing about all that stuff today.  The important matter that I must address concerns luncheon meatCold cutsReady-to-eat-meat products, if you will.

So up here in Canada, we have had one news story for the last week or so.  Perhaps longer.  It seems longer.  But maybe that’s just because it is the LEADING story on the news, and has been for, I don’t know, the last hundred days.

One of our Canadian luncheon meat plants, Maple Leaf in Toronto, has had an outbreak of listeria.  Now, I’m not expecting that you’ll have ever heard of this evil little bacteria.  I myself have seen some documentary on it (you know, of those shows that talks about e. coli, or ebola, or multi-drug-resistant-tuberculosis…  I am fascinated by these shows, so I know all about the little deadlies that are out there.  But I know that my obsession is a little weird, so I don’t expect anybody else to share it.  Although if you do, let me know;  it would be cool to know that I’m not the only really weird one.)

As a public service, I will list some fast facts about listeria, courtesy of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

What is foodborne illness?

Foodborne illness occurs when a person consumes food contaminated with
pathogenic bacteria, viruses or parasites. This condition is often called
“food poisoning”. Many cases of foodborne illness go unreported
because their symptoms often resemble flu symptoms. The most common symptoms of
foodborne illness may include stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and

What are Listeria
and listeriosis?

  • Listeria monocytogenes is a
    bacterium. It is often found in the environment, particularly in soil,
    vegetation, animal feed, and in human and animal feces.
  • Eating food contaminated with Listeria may lead to the development of a disease
    called listeriosis.

What are the symptoms?

  • Symptoms include: flu-like symptoms, nausea, vomiting, cramps, diarrhea,
    headache, constipation and persistent fever. Symptoms usually appear within 2
    to 30 days and up to 70 days after consuming contaminated food.
  • The very young, elderly or those with poorly functioning immune systems are
    the most susceptible. Flu-like symptoms may be followed by a brain or blood
    infection, either of which can result in death.
  • A woman who develops listeriosis during the first three months of pregnancy
    may miscarry. If she develops listeriosis later in the pregnancy, her baby may
    be stillborn or acutely ill.

Wow, huh?  Listeriosis has been described by a microbiologist, tapped by the media as an expert, as the worst form of food poisoning ever.  Well, he didn’t put it precisely that way, but I’m certain that this is what he would have said if he was a subscriber to the Plain English school of language.

Anyway, this has been our national obsession.  Much more pressing and fascinating than the Olympics.  Which, if you were paying attention, is not hard to achieve for Canada.  We are not summer Olympic folks up here, but we’ll clean up at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics.  Or else look mighty silly, after all the trash talk we’ve been dishing out.

(I just have to add this note:  there were at least three Olympians in Beijing who are from my hometown.  And each one of them finished fourth.  I think that says something, don’t you?  But I digress.)

So, listeriosis.  This manufacturing plant has, at some point, had something to do with nearly every ready-to-eat-meat product in the country.  At first, the company just recalled products sold under the Maple Leaf label.  But yesterday, the recall had expanded to some 34 brand names and restaurants who use those products.  So there are far more dangerous ready-to-eat-meat products out there than we had imagined.

My parents eat a lot of cold cuts.  And they are in their early seventies.  I talked to my mother last night, and discovered that they had a fridge-full of possibly tainted meat products – ahem, ready-to-eat-meat products – that they have been merrily eating all along.  Not Maple Leaf, see?  Burns brand.  Who’d have thought that perhaps the Maple Leaf plant might also process meat for other brand names?  Clearly, it was safe to keep eating them.

The elderly are one of the groups at risk.  I had to explain to my mother today that, at 72, she is considered to be elderly.  Not that I think of her as elderly;  heavens, nooooo.  But technically, the general public do (mistakenly, of course) consider 72 to be elderly.

And they are both sick, with flu-like symptoms.  And in complete denial that the ham and bologna they have been eating might have caused it.  And that they, just maybe, should call the doctor, or the public health unit.  Or somebody.

I emailed my oldest sister last night about it.  She is a nurse, and it’s generally much easier to email her about something like this, than to look it up myself.  Laziness, thy name is Linds.

Sister1 sent me the list of symptoms, which pretty much parallel what my parents are feeling.  And she asked me to make sure that they had chucked the rest of the meat.  She knows them well, let’s just say that.

My mother grew up really poor, and she does not throw *anything* away.  She just cannot bring herself to throw food in the garbage.  And this situation is no exception.  Mom fed the stuff to the crows, which inspired me to tell her that when listeria sweeps through the local animal food chain, she will know it is her fault.  Neither she nor my father had considered that, apparently.

Since I am the child who lives in the same city as the parents, I am the one who keeps an eye on them.  It is a heavy responsibility sometimes.  Mostly because they are so stubborn, and apparently invincible.  I will be watching them closely.

I’m pretty sure they’re fine, but the fact that they are always in complete denial about even the possibility that they might be, even the slightest bit, at risk is infinitely frustrating.  I’ll blog later about an incident with my mother that will help to illustrate this point.  But for now, take my word for it that this nonchalant, blase’ attitude is their M.O.

Anybody else have invincible parents that drive their children crazy?  Just wondering.  Again, am I the only one?

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