'Cronut' burger linked to CNE illnesses: Toronto Public Health
Toronto Public Health officials say food samples taken from a concession stand at the centre of a food-borne illness investigation at the Canadian National Exhibition were found to be contaminated.
Dr. David McKeown, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, said at a press conference Friday that lab test results found traces of bacterium Staphylococcus aureus in samples obtained from Epic Burgers and Waffles, which was selling "cronut" burgers that feature beef patty topped with cheese on a bun made with a croissant-doughnut mix.
“The cronut burger was the only food that was common to the people who became ill and laboratory tests have identified the Staphylococcus aureus toxin in samples of the cronut burger,” McKeown said.
He also said Toronto Public Health has received over 150 reports of people falling ill after visiting the CNE.
A recognized cause of food-borne illness, the Staphylococcus bacterium produces a toxin which can cause symptoms ranging from an upset stomach to diarrhea, fever, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and dehydration.
McKeown said the vast majority of healthy people who ingest the toxin can recover completely, though it can be much more serious for the young and the elderly.
News of the possible food-borne illness began to spread early Wednesday morning after paramedics treated at least 12 CNE-goers late Tuesday for symptoms of gastrointestinal illness.
Five of them were taken to hospital for further treatment.
Officials said Thursday they'd received dozens of additional reports of possible illness linked to the CNE – up from 34 on Wednesday and about a dozen on Tuesday.
Epic Burgers, which closed voluntarily on Tuesday, is not allowed to reopen until officials determine the source of the contamination, McKeown said.
“We want to make sure that when the re-opening occurs, the food is safe,” McKeown said.
Early Wednesday, a three-hour inspection was carried out at the concession stand after many who fell ill reported eating the ‘cronut’ burger.
There are no indications that any other CNE food is associated with the outbreak, McKeown said. He also said it’s possible that some people who came forward to the agency were not sickened by the cronut burger.
CNE General Manager David Bednar said fair officials will continue to work with the health agency as the investigation continues.
“We are committed to take whatever actions may be necessary in order to prevent any similar outbreaks from occurring in the future,” he said.
Both Bednar and McKeown said it was premature to discuss possible penalties or charges for the vendor in light of the contamination.
In a statement posted on their Facebook page Thursday afternoon, Epic Burgers said they have operated under a “clean bill of health” at the CNE. All staff members have been fully trained in food safety, the statement added.
“We buy our products from only the top suppliers and we’ve never had any issues in the past, nor do we wish to have any in the future.”
The public health agency said it offered training to the fair's 1,600 food handlers and conducted an inspection before the CNE opened. It plans to conduct another inspection before the Ex closes.