TORONTO - An outbreak of food poisoning at the Canadian National Exhibition has been traced to the maple bacon jam topping on the cronut burger.
"We were able to clear the cheese, the meat patty, the lettuce and the bun and identify the jam," said Dr. Lisa Berger of Toronto Public Health. "Now we are looking at the individual components of the jam, there are separate food samples being sent to the public health lab and we are awaiting those results."
The investigation concluded that the jam, which is made of bacon, maple syrup, water and brown sugar, was contaminated by the staphylococcus aureus toxin — a recognized cause of foodborne illness. Possible symptoms include upset stomach, diarrhea, fever, vomiting, stomach cramps and dehydration.
The likely cause of contamination of the jam was poor refrigeration, Berger said.
"There were temperature control issues both at the supplier and on site," she said. "The staphylococcus aureus toxin is not killed by cooking. Refrigeration prevents the bacteria from multiplying."
Toronto Public Health received 223 reports from visitors to the fair who had experienced gastrointestinal symptoms after eating food at the CNE between Aug. 16 and 20.
Health officials have not interviewed all of those people, but said the only common food consumed by about 80 people who were confirmed to be ill was the cronut burger sold by Epic Burger and Waffles.
The company reopened its stand at the CNE on Tuesday but the menu no longer includes the cronut burger — a cheeseburger with a hybrid croissant-donut bun.
"The cronut inspired pastry burger has been put on hiatus for the remainder of the CNE 2013 season," said spokesman Christian Reilly.
Reilly said that Epic Burgers and Waffles' booth was busy on Tuesday and was gaining quite a bit of attention.
"It is very exciting actually, now that we are back open we have loyal customers and fans lining up," said Reilly.
The focus of the public health investigation is now on Le Dolci, the Toronto-based supplier of the maple bacon jam, to determine how the contamination occurred. Officials said Le Dolci has voluntarily ceased production of the jam and there is no risk to the public.
A statement on Le Dolci's Facebook page said the company was fully co-operating with Toronto Public Health.
Symptoms of foodborne illness were first reported Aug. 20 when paramedics treated 12 people at the fair, sending five of them to hospital.
Toronto Public Health said Epic Burgers and Waffles, which closed on Aug. 21, was 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.
"We have ensured the contaminated product is not served," Toronto Public Health said in a release.
According to Epic Burgers and Waffles the jam in question was only used on the cronut burger.
The burger stand also stated that they would no longer be doing business with Le Dolci.
"We still have not pinpointed at what point it (the contamination) started to develop within that specific product," said Reilly.
Since the opening weekend of the CNE, TPH has inspected more than 300 food premises. Officials said they will continue to actively monitor and work with vendors on food safety for the duration of the annual fair.