SAGUENAY, QUE.–Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz was forced to apologize yesterday for “tasteless and completely inappropriate” jokes on an Aug. 30 government conference call during the listeriosis crisis.
“This is like a death by a thousand cuts. Or should I say cold cuts,” Ritz quipped after fretting about the political dangers of the crisis.
And when told during the conference call about a new death in Prince Edward Island, Ritz remarked: “Please tell me it’s Wayne Easter.”
Easter, the Liberal MP for the P.E.I. riding of Malpeque, is his party’s critic shadowing Ritz’s Agriculture Department.
The Canadian Press reported the comments last night, citing sources who took notes during the call.
So far, 17 deaths, including 14 in Ontario, have been linked to the listeriosis outbreak, which sparked a massive recall of food products from a Maple Leaf Foods plant in Toronto.
The plant where the listeria bacterium was found embedded deep inside slicing equipment was closed Aug. 20 and reopened yesterday.
Listeriosis causes high fever, headache, neck stiffness and nausea that is of particular concern to the elderly, pregnant women and the infirm.