MAIL BAG

December 1 2008

MAIL BAG

December 1 2008

MAIL BAG

‘The country is saddened by the tragedy of Brandon Crisp. It was an accident. No one is to blame.’

THE HEARTBREAK OF LISTERIA

THANK YOU FOR Michael Friscolanti’s article about the listeria outbreak at Maple Leaf Foods (“How safe is your food?” Business, Nov. 10). It was very moving for me as my mother, Elizabeth Schroh, passed away in August after it was confirmed her blood contained isteria monocytogenes. Listeriosis was not recorded on her death certificate as the cause of death, so she is not counted among the Public Health Agency of Canada’s numbers; it stands at 20 when I know it should be 21. How many other deaths occurred and were not recorded? Sadly my mother became ill in early June (about the same time as the listeria started showing up), tested positive during the peak of the infection and died one day before the recall. The unsettling part for me is that my mother didn’t choose to eat this food. It was on the menu at the health facilities where she received care. She was a remarkable woman and a wonderful mother and grandmother. She is sadly missed. Alicia Bigland, Summerland, B.C.

MY UNBORN BABY girl was one of the many uncounted victims of the listeria outbreak in the Maritimes in 1981.1 ate infected coleslaw while I was pregnant. The cabbage for the coleslaw was fertilized by a farmer using untreated pig manure. We did not think of suing the farmer—what good would it have done? Is Maple Leaf being sued because people feel it can afford to pay? Maple Leaf seems to have followed the guidelines for plant cleanliness and their products were still infected, so I cannot blame it entirely for this outbreak. Listeria and other viruses are everywhere and are becoming resistant to our efforts to contain them.

Jan Wood, Halifax

WHAT I WONDER is why continue to produce these luncheon meats in the first place? They are not a necessity in any sense of the word. They give the industry a way of disposing of meat by-products that they would otherwise have to throw away. The best way to avoid the risk is to eliminate the products entirely, as a great many consumers already have. Betty Whyte, Nanaimo, B.C.

WRITER MICHAEL FRISCOLANTI is very wellresearched in the science of a technically challenging topic—listeria and related test-

ing in ready-to-eat facilities. We applaud his research and his efforts. However, we wanted to draw your attention to two facts where additional clarification may be required. The first is regarding the inclusion of children as a risk group. Data available from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s FoodNet clarifies that at-risk populations are pregnant women and their unborn children, newborns, people over 60, and people whose immune systems are compromised. Specifically, the CDC shows that healthy children over 30 days of age to healthy adults of 30 years of age are among the least susceptible

to listeria. Listeria is a rare disease that seldom affects healthy people. Similar information is also found on the website of the Canadian Medical Association Journal at mm. cmaj.ca. Additionally, the article references that the slicers in the Maple Leaf facility were “covered with listeria.” Listeria was in fact found deep within the slicers in a specific harbourage point, beyond manufacturer’s directions for daily cleansing. The term “covered” implies both a lack of cleanliness and a frequency of listeria findings on contact surfaces, which was not the case. These machines were sanitized between six to eight hours each day following production and frequently tested for listeria as part of the company’s intensive environmental monitoring program.

Lynda Kuhn, Senior Vice-President, Communications and Consumer Affairs, Maple Leaf Foods Inc., Toronto

BARLOW AND COUILLARD

AS PENANCE for listing Maude Barlow’s appointment by the UN as special adviser on water issues under “Bad News” rather than “Good News” (Seven Days, Nov. io), I suggest you invite Barlow to be interviewed. This would provide her the opportunity to speak for herself, correct your statements and provide first-hand information. Barlow has worked tirelessly for decades to promote social justice, Canadian sovereignty, countless humanitarian causes, and has significant national recognition. Contrary to your opinion, her UN appointment will facilitate a full and open debate on the water issue. She deserves at least as much coverage in Maclean ’s—Canada’s foremost national magazine—as Julie Couillard.

D.V. Ingwersen, Calgary

VIDEO (AND BLAME) GAMES

THE POINT of view taken in the article written by Colin Campbell and Jonathon Gatehouse about the disappearance of 15-year-old Brandon Crisp after arguing with his parents over a video game (“What happened to Brandon?” Society, Nov. lo) further enforces stereotypes about gamers. It portrays them as lonely and isolated adolescents who generally have poor grades, are socially inept and maybe even considered violent or disturbed. Contrary to such opinions, gamers are not much, if at all, different from the average person. Gaming, along with movies and music, has long been the fall guy for parents and the media in the blame game. It is about time for society to catch up to technology, and for parents and the media to become educated and stop creating fallacies about gamers, including Brandon Crisp. MattDiVito, Barrie, Ont.

OF ALL THE TROUBLE a 15-year-old boy can get into these days, playing too much Xbox ranks pretty low on the list. I’d like to ask the parents of thousands of teenage drug addicts, alcoholics, prostitutes and car thieves if having their kids stuck in the basement playing a video game really is so terrible. Perhaps playing Call of Duty non-stop is not the worst thing that could happen after all.

Brian K. French, Chatham, Ont.

THE ENTIRE country is saddened by the recent discovery of Brandon Crisp’s body. This

tragedy was an unfortunate accident with no one to blame.

Richard Busse, Calgary

THE END ZONE

I AM WRITING to say how much I appreciated the piece on guitarist Nelson Symonds (The End, Nov. lo). Thanks also for getting trumpeter/organist Kevin Dean, arranger/ band leader Vic Vogel, saxophonist Dave Turner, bassist David Gelfand and guitarist Greg Clayton—all special musicians in their own right—to weigh in on Symonds’ quiet but nonetheless important legacy. We are living during a time when many jazz masters are leaving us quite quickly—in recent months we have lost Johnny Griffin, Neil Hefti, Ronnie Matthews and Bobby Durham, in addi-

tion to Nelson Symonds. Congratulations to Maclean’s writers Nicholas Köhler and Barbara Righton for an informative and most welcome tribute.

Dr. Andrew Scott, Toronto

I RECENTLY REREAD Cathy Gulli’s story of twins Jenilee and Jillian Evans, who died on Dec. 30, 2005, after being hit by a young man who had allegedly been drinking (The End, Jan. 23, 2006). It’s been a long time since I read it and it brought tears to my eyes once again. My son, Jon, is one of the boyfriends she speaks of in the article. It will be three years next month since the girls left us. I can’t tell you how many times I think of them and miss them. It was a tragedy that we lost them, yet their story has lived on. Close to $20,000 has been donated in their memory to Students Against Drunk Driving, and from my understanding there will be a scholarship or bursary set up in their honour with those funds. Thank you again for telling their story.

Bonny Daku, Regina

BANS, BANS AND MORE BANS

YOUR EDITORIAL about the ban on the use of cellphones while driving hit the nail right on the head (“Politics of distraction,” From the editors, Nov. lo). It has become increasingly popular for governments of all stripes to enact legislation that protects us from ourselves, even if it gradually reduces our personal freedoms. The most obvious example of this is the street racing law in Ontario that hands out roadside punishments without the benefit of a proper hearing. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty clearly understands the mood of his constituents because there have been

few complaints about this “guilty until proven innocent” approach to speeders. The government appears to have become distracted from dealing with the real problems facing the province. Instead of buying the OPP a $1million airplane to catch speeders, maybe McGuinty should spend money on job retention and creation.

Ken Voss, Alliston, Ont.

WHO GETS WHAT

IN REGARD TO the editorial in which you say that Stephen Harper added $50 million to the Canada Council’s budget (“Budgets for bad times,” From the Editors, Nov. 3), I would like to clarify that the $50 million you refer to was a one-time allocation over two years ($20 million in 2006-07 and $30 million in 2007-08) that was announced in 2006. Subsequently, the government also allotted $30 million to the council’s base budget, beginning in 2008-09. Grace Thrasher, Acting Senior Communications Manager,

Canada Council for the Arts, Ottawa

A CLICK AWAY

LAST WEEK I decided to click onto the Maclean’s website, macleans.ca, just for a change and was amazed at how much better your layout and content is. It has been a long, long time since I found the Maclean’s site to be relevant, but now I will be visiting it more often. Alfred Vouk, Sudbury, Ont.

IN PASSING

Paula Goodspeed, 30, talent show contestant. After appearing on American Idol and being mocked by its panel of judges, including Paula Abdul, the would-be celebrity became an Internet figure of fun, ridiculed for her appearance and musical failings. She had a history of mental illness, and was found near Abdul’s home, dead from a drug overdose.

Debby, 42, polar bear. The world’s oldest polar bear was euthanized at the Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg following multiple organ failure. Debby was born and orphaned in the Soviet Union and came to Canada in 1967, where she bore six cubs. She had been seen by 18 million zoo visitors.