OTTAWA (AP) -- Public health officials attributed two more deaths to a deadly bacterial outbreak linked to tainted meat, raising Canada's confirmed listeriosis death toll to six.
Six additional deaths were being investigated to determine if the dangerious ailment was a contributing factor, Mark Raizenne, director-general of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, said Monday.
Listeriosis is a type of food poisoning that can be dangerous to the elderly, newborns, pregnant women and people with chronic medical conditions. Symptoms include fever, headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea.
All of the deaths are part of a total of 26 cases of listeriosis across Canada, the bulk of them in Ontario, with confirmed links to the outbreak, Raizenne said.
Another 29 suspected cases are under investigation to determine if they are linked to the outbreak, said Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.
Raizenne warned that the number of suspected and confirmed cases are both likely to rise.
Test results announced over the weekend have linked the outbreak with ready-to-eat meat produced by Maple Leaf Foods that was tainted with the Listeria bacterium. Maple Leaf has recalled 220 forms of meat products, as well as everything made at the company's Toronto plant.
A Calgary-based distributor of ready-made sandwiches recalled dozens of goods sold in Saskatchewan and Alberta, saying some of them could contain recalled meat products.
The CFIA said the sandwiches, manufactured by Lucerne Foods, could contain some of the pre-packaged meat products recalled by Maple Leaf Foods.
Maple Leaf sells products in several countries but the company said the recall for tainted meat is limited to Canada.
Maple Leaf, with revenues of more than $4.95 billion, said Monday that it is bracing for a decline in sales on top of the $19-million product recall.
In newspaper and television ads released this weekend, Maple Leaf CEO Michael McCain apologized.
"We have an unwavering commitment to keeping your food safe with standards well beyond regulatory requirements, but this week our best efforts failed and we are deeply sorry," McCain said in the ad, which was also posted on Internet sites.
Officials with the Public Health Agency of Canada said Monday that Canadians should remain on guard for at least a few more weeks, given listeriosis' lengthy incubation of up to 70 days.