The president of Maple Leaf Foods is defending the federal food inspection system and said his company is taking full responsibility for the ongoing national outbreak of listeriosis.

Michael McCain said that Maple Leaf must bear the cost of the outbreak and is accountable for fixing the problem.

"I absolutely do not believe this is a failure of the Canadian food safety system or the regulators," he said at a news conference in Toronto on Wednesday afternoon. "Certainly knowing there is a desire to assign blame, I want to reiterate that the buck stops here."

"We have an unwavering commitment to keep our food safe, and we have excellent systems and processes in place but this week it's our best efforts that failed not the regulators or Canadian food safety system."

McCain said the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has a full time office in the affected Toronto plant and agents are at the facility whenever the plant is active. McCain said the agents are responsible for auditing Maple Leaf's systems and processes while doing their own testing.

"CFIA inspectors are on site every time the plant is operational. They are in the plant they are there physically, I understand every time the plant is running," he said.

However the President of Agriculture Union of the Public Service Alliance of Canada said earlier Wednesday that the CFIA's new safety tracking system is actually keeping inspectors out of processing facilities and in the office.

Bob Kingston said inspectors want more on-site time to ensure safety requirements are being met.

He said inspectors like the new system, which was implemented last March, but feel it is simply lacking resources.

"The inspectors that are part of our union have expressed a concern that it's simply keeping them too much off the facility floor where they used to actually get a chance to walk around and get a better feel for things," Kingston told CTV's Canada AM on Wednesday.

The new system requires federal inspectors to do random product tests only three or four times a year at a plant. Additionally, meat packers need to only test each type of product once a month, reports The Globe and Mail.

"They've introduced basically a documentation system that better tracks what activities take place both by the plant and by our members who inspect for the CFIA," said Kingston.

"The system is supposed to make it more regimented, make sure that everything happens in a particular fashion and from that perspective it would be good."

Kingston said directly linking the new program with the recent deadly listeria outbreak would be "wild speculation."

Still, he said the "added workload, in terms of the documentation, certainly doesn't have them feeling really comfortable about the amount of time they get to spend looking at things like sanitation and observing clean-up procedures."

It is still unclear when the Toronto plant at the centre of the outbreak will reopen. McCain says they will not reopen the plant until an investigation aimed at narrowing down the possible root of the outbreak is completed.

McCain said investigators are looking several things within the plant such as drains and drainage systems, flooring, potential for temperature variability in the ovens and are "pouring over the data" in search of root cause.

"Because listeria is so widespread in our environment that root cause for certain is unlikely but they continue to seek it out at least to narrow it down," said McCain.

The Public Health Agency of Canada said there are 29 confirmed cases of the outbreak strain in the country with 15 deaths; 12 in Ontario, and one each in Saskatchewan, B.C. and Quebec.

At the time of the outbreak, only one federal inspector was assigned to audit paperwork for the plant. The inspector also had to monitor several other plants, reports The Globe.

Economic fallout

McCain's statement came as his company saw a better day on the stock market, after trading at its lowest level ever on Tuesday.

Maple Leaf Foods shares rose more than four per cent Wednesday, rebounding after hitting a new low a day earlier. The stock traded as high as $8.42 on the TSX on Wednesday, closing at $8.29 -- up 30 cents or 3.75 per cent -- on almost 2.6 million shares after falling to a new 52-week low of $7.95 Tuesday. The stock had a 52-week high of $16.25.

The massive recall of over 220 meat products and several class-action lawsuits related to the listeriosis outbreak are blamed for the company's economic downturn.

The cases were filed by Merchant Law Group of Alberta, which specializes in class-action suits. The law firm filed the lawsuits in Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. It will file more suits against Maple Leaf within the week.

Plaintiffs Arthur Cole and Donna Hyland, who filed a suit in Ontario, are looking for $350 million in damages. Montreal couple Juanita Melvin and Thomas Guay were the plaintiffs for the Quebec lawsuit filed Tuesday. The couple got sick after eating Maple Leaf sliced turkey and ham.

Maple Leaf estimates the recall will cost about $20 million -- not including the potential impact on sales down the road.

With files from The Canadian Press