WARNING: This story contains details that some readers might find disturbing.
In Shaylynn Marsden’s home, milk is a staple. With a three-year-old son who loves a drink before bed and with her meals, she can’t get enough at home.
That’s why when a particular bag of milk seemed heavier than normal, she knew something was wrong.
“I could see the tail and the hair, and I knew right away it was a mouse,” said Marsden, 28, who lives on Christian Island in Georgian Bay.
“That level of disgust was just unbelievable…I literally wanted to gargle and drink bleach, that’s how disgusting I felt,” said Marsden, who works in social services.
On March 26, just over a week after purchasing the bag, Marsden said she found the rodent dead near the bottom of the second bag of Neilson TruTaste milk supplied in a three-pack – after she and her son , Onikaniw, had already finished one bag and part of the second bag, which contained the rodent.
Experts say that while this incident is troubling, it is a rare occurrence. But for Marsden, comfort means little. She says she has lost faith in the institutions meant to protect food security and worries about the potential health consequences.
On the advice of telehealth practitioners, Marsden says she is monitoring her son for any signs of illness after previously suffering from diarrhea herself. She says she was told Onikaniw was at risk for worms.
After being diagnosed with asthma last year, she worries about how exposure to a rodent could further impact her immune system.
“I’m kinda glad he doesn’t understand what’s going on – I take that for him too.”
Marsden filed an online complaint with the company on March 30.
Worrying but rare
Saputo, the company that owns Neilson Dairy, said in an email to CBC News that it was aware of the complaint.
“While it is highly unlikely that an issue like this will occur at any of our facilities and we have not received any similar complaints from consumers, we take all feedback seriously and will work with the CFIA. [Canadian Food Inspection Agency] while we examine it.”
Ian Young, an associate professor at Ryerson University’s School of Occupational and Public Health, said while the incident is troubling, members of the public should still have faith in the country’s food regulatory system.
“We have one of the safest food safety systems in the world,” Young said. “Sometimes there are breakdowns in quality control…but overall I would say, thankfully, things like this are pretty rare.”
Young said it was unclear how the incident happened, but depending on the facilities and how the milk is transported in bags, more than one package of milk could have been contaminated.
“It’s certainly a concern that it could have contaminated a wider batch of products 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 illnesses have been reported to the CFIA,” reads the email. .
“We are currently monitoring the complaint and will notify the complainant when the investigation is complete.”
Marsden says she did not report her symptoms of diarrhea at the time of the complaint, but did report it to Telehealth officials.
Insult to insult
Marsden lives on Beausoleil First Nation on Christian Island, located at the southern end of Georgian Bay, about an hour’s drive from Midland, Ontario.
She says that with the general increase in the cost of living and the fact that it takes over an hour to travel by ferry and car to get to the mainland for the most part, it adds insult to the insult of paying for food that does not pass the bar for safety.
Going forward, she says she will think twice about eating out and buying food from the grocery store.
“It kind of makes you lose all faith in the food and manufacturing industries,” Marsden said.
Marsden says she plans to explore the matter legally.
“I just hope manufacturers and companies are more responsible and accountable, and take these things seriously. [and] especially with food prices so high that we get what we pay for.
“It can happen to anyone. I just hope it doesn’t happen to anyone else.”