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Introduction

In August 2008, Canada had to face a major Listeriosis epidemic when a

contamination at a Toronto Maple Leaf Foods plant caused a total of 57 Canadians to

fall sick and took 23 lives. This was caused when the Listeria bacteria started

accumulating in of the meat slicing equipment in the plant. The Listeria bacteria is a

commonly found bacteria in all of the food that we consume and has been exposed,

but even a slightly higher concentration of it has a higher probability of adversely

affecting people with lower immunity. Thus, most cases of people affected by the

contamination were elderly in old-age homes and hospitals.

(http://www.mumj.org/Issues/v8_2011/articles/v8_65.pdf)

The most interesting part about the case is how Maple Leaf Foods reacted when the

officials tracked the contamination to products from their company and how Maple

Leaf Foods set an industry benchmark for ethical behavior. After looking at various

cases of ethical slips over the course of the month, it was critical to study how a

company upheld values in the time of moral crisis.

This reaction paper will analyze the main agents in the case and an opinion and

analysis of the ethical issues, then delve the various ethical models that depict the

behavior of the CEO and the firm, compare it with other firms globally who have

faced a similar predicament and finally conclude with answering the question about

How Maple Food set the benchmark for ethical behavior.

2. Analyses of the case

The main active agent in the case is the CEO of Maple Leaf Foods, Michael McCain,

who not only accepted the fault but also won back customers because of his

transparency in dealing with the situation. The various departmental stores that
stored these contaminated products and the consumers who bought the meat are

passive agents.

Although the source of the contamination was not determined, officials were soon

zeroing down to the Maple Leaf plant in Toronto. This triggered the management of

Maple Leaf Food to act quickly and issue a voluntary recall of their products.

(http://www.swlawyers.ca/docs/Maple-Leaf-Case-Study_-_Colin-Stevenson.pdf). The

timing of their recall is very critical example of how the company was ready to take

ownership of the problem before someone pointed fingers. Within a few days of

voluntary the recall the lab tests revealed that Maple Leaf products tested positive

for contamination((http://www.swlawyers.ca/docs/Maple-Leaf-Case-Study_-_Colin-

Stevenson.pdf).). One would imagine that a company that found itself in this

situation would most probably deny the charges, and consult their legal teams to

find out how to evade the situation efficiently, but Maple Leaf gained the trust of

both media and the public by taking responsibility of the situation by the means of

video messages aired across the country.


The video messages that were aired had the CEO of Maple Leaf Foods, Michael

McCain take full responsibility of the situation and apologize. The way the addressed

the audience was something very critical it sounded genuine. The CEO had very

empathetic and apologetic tone to his voice and was dressed in simple clothes,

clothes that a common man could relate with. The content of the speech displayed

genuine regret. These were the reasons why the public found it easier to forgive the

company for its mistake.


Two more videos of the CEO were released subsequently, one after four months of

shutting down their contaminated plant and cleaning it and one after a year of the

incident. (Class Discussion) Both these videos reinforced the fact that they now
have higher standards of cleanliness and promise their customers to trust in them

and their products.

3. Viewing the case with ethical models

The first ethical model that used to analyze the case is Contractarianism. The

reason for choosing contractarianism for analyzing this case is to exemplify how

Maple Foods kept both Explicit and Implicit promises towards its customers. The

main factor that supports the argument is the fact that the company did have a

chance to deny charges and try to mitigate the problem with other unethical means

such dragging the supplier of the slicer equipment to court and hence taking a

lower economic blow. But as a food company they directly reached out to their

customers kept their implicit promise of maintaining high food quality.


Another model that perfectly fits the case is Consequentialism. The CEO, Michael

McCain, appropriately judged the consequence of him taking responsibility of the

situation. The consequence of his behavior was that it proved positive to one all.

Even though it may not have been positive in the short term because of the

financial losses, but it definitely proved to be positive in the long run. The case

proves that when a company or even an individual is faced with an ethical dilemma

it always helps to think about the long term consequences rather than the short

term gratification.
Looking at the case from the lens of Deontological Reasoning and the

Universalization Manoeuvre lends us an interesting perspective. This model makes

us ponder over how different the cut-throat environment of the corporate world

would be if everyone could follow what CEO Michael McCain did. Technically,

everyone company or individual can choose to follow the path of apologizing and

promising their customers to set their mistakes right, but we hardly see examples

where companies did this.


In conclusion I would like to say that sometimes the best business strategy to set

your mistakes right is very simple apologize.


4. Comparing Similar Cases
In 2006, problems with Bausch & Lombs ReNu solution that is used as a wetting

and cleansing agent for contact lenses surfaced. The product was causing sever eye

infection among contact lens users. The company was criticized for not taking an

action even after multiple warning and FDA notifications. The company knew about

its problems almost an year ago, but failed to warn customers about the side

effects. Bausch & Lomb had to forcefully recall all of the solution worldwide and is currently facing

multiple law suits and lost all of its most of its market share.

(https://www.lawyersandsettlements.com/articles/eye_contacts_infection/renu-dangers-00428.html)

This example is a stark contrast to Maple Leaf Foods, proving that timely and ethical action in a crisis

situation is imperative for the survival of an organization.

There is another side to the story, even though the public gained the trust of the
company, the federal inspection records showed that Maple Leaf had not recorded
any previous cleaning of the contaminated meat slicer.
(http://www.swlawyers.ca/docs/Maple-Leaf-Case-Study_-_Colin-Stevenson.pdf)
This incident in itself displayed that the culture in the company was focused on