WARNING: This story contains details some readers may find disturbing.
In Shaylynn Marsden’s household, milk is a staple. With a three-year-old son who loves a glass before bed and with his meals, she can never have enough in the house.
That’s why when one particular bag of milk felt heavier than normal, she knew something was wrong.
“I could see the tail and the hair, and I knew right away that it was a mouse,” said Marsden, 28, who lives on Christian Island on Georgian Bay.
“That level of disgust was just unbelievable … I literally wanted to gargle and drink bleach, that’s how gross I felt,” said Marsden, who works in social services.
On March 26, a little over a week after the bag was purchased, Marsden said she found the dead rodent near the bottom of the second Neilson TruTaste milk bag that came in a package of three — after she and her son, Onikaniw, had already finished one bag and some of the second bag, which contained the rodent.
Experts say that while this incident is disturbing, it’s a rare occurrence. But to Marsden, the reinsurance means little. She says she’s lost trust in the institutions meant to safeguard food safety and is worried about the potential health consequences.
On the advice of Telehealth practitioners, Marsden says she’s monitoring her son for any signs of sickness after already experiencing diarrhea herself. She says she’s been told Onikaniw is at risk for worms.
After he was diagnosed with asthma last year, she’s worried about how exposure to a rodent might further impact his immune system.
“I’m kind of glad he doesn’t understand what’s happening — I’m taking that on for him as well.”
Marsden filed an online complaint with the company on March 30.
Rare Disturbing Goal
Saputo, the company that owns Neilson Dairy, said in an email to CBC News it’s aware of the complaint.
“While an issue like this is highly unlikely to occur at any of our facilities and we have not received any similar consumer complaints, we take all feedback seriously and will collaborate with the CFIA [Canadian Food Inspection Agency] as we look into it.”
Ian Young, associate professor at the School of Occupational and Public Health at Ryerson University, said while the incident is disturbing, members of the public should still have faith in the country’s food regulation system.
“We have one of the safest food safety systems in the world,” Young said. “Occasionally there are breakdowns in quality control … but overall I would say, thankfully, things like this are quite rare.”
Young said it’s hard to know how the incident happened, but depending on the facilities and how the milk is funnelled into bags, more than one package of milk could have been contaminated.
“That is definitely a concern that it could have contaminated a wider batch of product as well,” Young said.
The CFIA confirmed to CBC News that it has launched an investigation.
“At this time, the CFIA has not received any other similar complaints, no recalls have been issued as a result of this complaint, and no illness has been reported to the CFIA,” reads the email.
“We are currently following-up on the complaint, and will notify the complainant when the investigation has been completed.”
Marsden says she didn’t report her diarrhea symptoms at the time of the complaint, but reported it to Telehealth officials.
insult to injury
Marsden lives in Beausoleil First Nation on Christian Island, located in the southern tip of Georgian Bay, about an hour away from Midland, Ont.
She says with the general rise in the cost of living and the fact that it requires more than an hour of travel by ferry and car to get to the mainland for essentials, it adds insult to injury to pay for food that doesn’t pass the bar for safety.
Moving forward, she says she’ll think twice when it comes to eating out and buying food at the grocery store.
“It kind of just causes you to lose all faith that you have in food and manufacturing industries,” Marsden said.
Marsden says she’s looking into exploring the matter legally.
“I just hope that the manufacturers and companies are more accountable and responsible, and they’re taking these things seriously [and] especially with the food prices going so high, that we are getting what we’re paying for.
“It can happen to anyone. I’m just hoping that it doesn’t happen to anyone else.”