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Published On: Wed, Aug 28th, 2013

Toronto Staphylococcus food poisoning outbreak linked to maple bacon jam topping

A food borne outbreak among visitors of the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) in Toronto has been linked to maple bacon jam, a topping used on a cronut burger, according to Toronto Public Health (TPH) officials.

Image/CDC

Image/CDC

The investigation, which centered around the vendor, Epic Burgers and Waffles, revealed that samples of the cronut burger were contaminated by Staphylococcus aureus toxin, which is a recognized cause of food borne illness.

Additional lab results have now confirmed that the maple bacon jam topping on the burger contained this toxin and is the source of illnesses, according to health officials.

“New lab results indicate that the maple bacon jam, which is one component of the cronut burger, is the cause of food-borne illnesses at the CNE,” said Dr. David McKeown, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health. “We have ensured the contaminated product is not served. There is no risk to the public.”

TPH’s investigation is focusing on the supplier of the bacon jam, Le Dolci, to determine how the contamination occurred. Le Dolci has voluntarily ceased production of this product.

Toronto Public Health said Epic Burgers and Waffles, which has remained closed since Aug. 21, will be allowed to reopen at the fair as long as it does not serve the maple bacon jam from that supplier and all food safety requirements are met.

As of 8 a.m. Tuesday, TPH has received 223 reports from CNE visitors who experienced gastrointestinal symptoms after consuming food at the CNE from August 16 to August 20. TPH has interviewed more than 150 people who reported ill, not all of whom reported eating a cronut burger. The only common food consumed by those who were ill is the cronut burger sold by Epic Burger and Waffles.

Epic Burger and Waffles made a statement on their Facebook page concerning this issue, here is an excerpt:

“Public Health has made it known to us that a Maple Bacon Jam made by one of our now former supply partners, is what they suspect was the cause of this problem. Public Health has informed us that they are continuing the investigation into this supplier.

“The jam was used as a topping solely on one of our menu items, the Cronut burger.As a result of this finding Epic Burgers and Waffles have decided to remove the Cronut Burger from our menu and we will no longer do business with the aforementioned supplier.”

Staphylococcal food intoxication  is caused by several of the enterotoxins of Staphylococcus aureus. These toxins are heat-stable and cannot be killed by cooking.

People typically get this usually abrupt food poisoning through eating a food stuff that contains the staphylococcal enterotoxin, especially foods that come in contact with food handler’s hands, either without subsequent cooking or inadequate heating or refrigeration.

Foods most commonly implicated are pastries, custards, salad dressings, sandwiches and meat products. When these foods remain at room temperature for a period (usually a several hours) prior to consumption, the staph bacteria are allowed to multiply and produce the toxin.

The time between eating the offending food product and the onset of symptoms is short, from 30 minutes to 8 hours.

This intoxication presents itself quickly with sometimes violent onset; severe cramps, nausea, vomiting and often accompanied by diarrhea. The illness typically lasts a day or two. Serious complications and deaths are rare.

In an outbreak setting like this, recovery of large amounts Staphylococcus aureus or detection of enterotoxin from the implicated food confirms the diagnosis.

Prevention of staphylococcal food poisoning requires:

  • Food handlers must be educated about strict food hygiene, temperature control, handwashing, and sanitation.
  • Also the dangers of working with exposed skin, nose or eye infections.
  • Those workers with boils, lesions, or abscesses must be temporarily excluded from food handling duties.
  • Reduction in food handling time, from initial preparation to service, to a minimum of 4 hours at room temperature. Also proper temperature control must be observed when storing food either hot or cold.

 

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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