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More deaths and illnesses linked to tainted meat in Canada

Government officials say Canada's food-safety measures are working even as the death toll from a bacterial infection traced to tainted meat climbed to eight and dozens more suspected cases were reported.

The confirmed deaths — all in Ontario — are from a listeriosis strain linked to meat products from a Toronto plant of Maple Leaf Foods.

Seven other deaths — four in Ontario and one each in Quebec, British Columbia and Saskatchewan — are under investigation.

An additional 29 cases of illness have been conclusively tied to the outbreak, and 36 other suspected cases are being examined for links.

Maple Leaf launched a recall of more than 200 products — many of them deli-style processed meats — and more have been added to the list daily over the past week across the country.

The products were made at the plant since June and sold under the Maple Leaf brand and dozens of others including Schneider's, Bittners, Burns, generic and store brands.

The plant remains closed for a thorough cleaning and investigation of the source of the problem.

Particularly at risk are the elderly, children, pregnant women and those in poor health.

Many more cases are expected, as the bacteria can take from a few days to a few months to manifest itself after a tainted product is consumed.

Harper prepared to set federal election date

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is poised to dissolve Parliament in the next week and set the date for a federal election.

In power since January 2006, Harper's minority Conservative government is at odds with plans by the Liberals to seek an environmental carbon tax that would present a drastically different economic plan for the country.

After a private meeting with Harper on Friday, Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe said the prime minister was intent on holding a fall election.

Possible dates would be in mid October, including Oct. 14, the day after Canada's Thanksgiving.

News in brief

• A potential U.S. government with Barack Obama and running mate Joe Biden could impact Canada in the area of free trade. Toby Condliffe of Democrats Abroad said Canadians will like that both are opposed to the war in Iraq, but not their views about better protecting U.S. businesses under free-trade rules.

• Ed Robertson of the music group Barenaked Ladies, his wife and two others escaped uninjured after his floatplane crashed into trees near Bancroft, Ontario. The plane stalled as it was taking off from Baptiste Lake on Aug. 24. The group was also in the news this summer after singer Steven Page was arrested in upstate New York for possession of cocaine.

• Toronto actor Robert Smith, 43, known for his role as a loud, beer-loving Scotsman in Alexander Keith TV commercials, was sentenced to 20 months in jail for possessing child pornography. Crown prosecutor Allison Dellandrea said the sentence for the father of two young children demonstrates that people possessing child porn are directly responsible for the abuse.

Facts and figures

Canada's dollar dropped Friday after Statistics Canada reported lower-than-expected economic activity in the second quarter, with the real gross domestic product up only slightly at 0.1 percent.

The currency dropped almost 2 U.S. cents from last week to 93.98 cents U.S. The U.S. greenback gained to $1.0640 Canadian, before bank exchanges fees.

The Bank of Canada's key interest rate is steady at 3 percent, while the prime lending rate is 4.75 percent.

Canadian stock markets were higher, with the Toronto composite index at 13,711 points and the TSX Venture index at 1,972 points.

Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 2, 12, 25, 28, 35, 48; bonus 3. (Aug. 23) 3, 7, 13, 30, 38, 46; bonus 24. Super 7: (Aug. 22) 1, 18, 26, 27, 38, 41, 42; bonus 4.

Regional briefs

• Hundreds of passengers, many of them in Halifax and Britain, were stranded as Zoom Airlines suddenly closed when creditors tried to collect money owed to them. Zoom founders Hugh and John Boyle blamed the economic downturn and the unprecedented rise in the price of aviation fuel for its downfall.

• Residents on the north coast of Vancouver Island felt the earth move on Thursday morning when a 5.8-magnitude earthquake struck about 90 miles away in the Pacific Ocean. There was no reported damage and no tsunami warnings after the quake, the strongest of about 100 in the area since Tuesday.

• Frustrated that he couldn't sell his Toronto house for about $460,000 (U.S.), Omar Ibrahim lowered the price to $1 to encourage bids. The real estate investor ended up taking $362,000 U.S. for the midtown two-storey, semidetached house. He included a prepaid gas card for $5,200 ($4,888 U.S.) to sweeten the deal in the competitive market.

Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com.

More deaths and illnesses linked to tainted meat in Canada 08/30/08 [Last modified: Sunday, August 31, 2008 9:19am]
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