Quebec offers aid to cheese makers hurt by listeria
Published Saturday, October 4, 2008 12:50PM EDT
Quebec's cheese industry will get a multi-million dollar aid package to help cope with the recent Listeria crisis.
Just two weeks ago the Quebec government said it would not compensate merchants whose cheese was seized and destroyed because of a national listeriosis outbreak that began in Ontario late in the summer.
But Agriculture Minister Laurent Lessard now says cheese producers and retailers will get about $8.4 million in aid over three years, to replenish their stocks. As well, interest-free loans will be made available.
Merchants told CTV Montreal the aid package offers a lifeline for their struggling businesses.
"It was a nightmare for us and now everything is back on track and we need for customers to have confidence in Quebec cheese," said Frederic Chabot, whose shop was closed for weeks so that it could be disinfected.
Quebec milk producers and the province's dairy council say the government program isn't good enough for small producers who lost between 40 and 100 per cent of their business. So, the federation representing Quebec milk producers is offering grants to cheese factories that lost more than 40 per cent of their inventory during the crisis.
"We believe that with all the measures announced (Friday), we're hopeful that within six months, they'll be back on their feet," said Pierre Nadeau, the president of the Quebec Dairy Council at a press conference.
Quebec has confirmed 31 cheese-related cases of listeriosis since August, with one confirmed death.
Listeriosis is a foodborne illness that may cause high fever, severe headaches, neck stiffness, and nausea.
Listeria-related recalls have made headlines since the end of August. A listeriosis outbreak linked to food products at a Maple Leaf plant in Toronto has led to 20 deaths.
With report by John Grant, CTV Montreal