The Toronto Star
August 22, 2013
Chris Parnell had one thing to eat Tuesday—a cronut burger at the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE).
Within a few hours, his stomach pains escalated to vomiting, and that led to an ambulance trip to the hospital. A day later, he learned he was one of 34 people reporting symptoms of food-borne illness after eating at the CNE, prompting a Toronto Public Health investigation.
On Tuesday evening, the CNE voluntarily shut down food vendor Epic Burgers and Waffles, which sells the much-hyped croissant-doughnut-cheeseburger hybrid.
"At this point in our investigation we cannot confirm the food source," said Dr. Lisa Berger, Public Health's associate medical officer of health. "We are investigating the cronut burger, we are investigating various other food items, and we can't confirm right now."
Toronto Public Health (TPH) is focusing on people who ate at the CNE since opening day last Friday, and expects lab results from Epic Burger and Waffles food samples later this week. "We are continuing our investigation to interview these persons and identify the cause of illness."
Paramedics assessed 12 patients who experienced gastrointestinal problems, including vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pain, at the CNE on Tuesday, said Emergency Medical Services spokesman Jamie Rodgers.
Five were taken to hospital.
"They were very sick to their stomachs," said EMS spokeswoman Kim McKinnon.
Some of the patients were taken to Mount Sinai Hospital, where hospital spokeswoman Leslie O'Leary confirmed they said they had eaten the cronut burger.
Parnell was released from a hospital around 2 a.m., after being given an IV and oxygen, but said he still felt slightly ill at noon Wednesday. Still, he said he'd enjoyed the cronut burger at the time.
"The burger was good," he said. "No doubt about that."
Jaren Wade ventured to the CNE with his girlfriend on Tuesday solely to try it. Within a few hours, he said, they both sorely regretted that decision.
"My stomach started feeling upset. I started getting some stomach pains," said the 23-year-old, adding that his girlfriend experienced the same symptoms. "That's when I rushed to the washroom and just started vomiting."
After experiencing the ordeal, which lasted for a few hours, Wade doesn't think he'll be eating at Epic Burgers and Waffles again.
Jim Chan, Public Health's manager of food safety, confirmed that Epic Burgers and Waffles is under investigation.
"We are prioritizing our investigation based on the number of reports of illnesses related to (the) individual establishment," he said.
It was the CNE who took the precaution of closing Epic Burgers and Waffles Tuesday evening, Berger said, not Toronto Public Health.
Two Toronto Public Health inspectors arrived Wednesday morning to do a full inspection and take food samples. One inspector used a thermometer on two burgers after an employee put them on the grill.
Chan said the samples would go to a lab for testing, with results expected to take 24 to 72 hours. As per city guidelines, any other food at the establishment was tossed.
"That means anything left over from yesterday has to be discarded, and an inspector already supervised that."
The CNE food court remained full of people chowing down on falafels, pizza and deep-fried treats on Wednesday afternoon. Many said they weren't fazed by reports of food poisoning.
"It was 12 people in thousands," said Matthew Harasiewicz, who was lunching on a chicken shawarma with his wife, Julie, who ate a lobster roll, and kids William, 6, and Elizabeth, 9, who had a hot dog and a Harvey's burger.
Gary Bouchard and his sister, Janet Castellan, came from Sudbury on Wednesday to go to the Ex, and the cronut burger was at the top of their must-eat list. They had seen media coverage and were curious to have a taste.
"I'm here to eat, then back on your diet tomorrow," said Castellan, unaware that Epic Burgers was under a health investigation. "The croissant and the hamburger together is a little odd to me, but hey, I'm willing to try anything."
Toronto Public Health inspected 200 food establishments on opening weekend at the CNE. It gave 17 conditional passes and issued one ticket. No infractions were observed when Epic Burgers was inspected.
A Public Health spokesperson said inspectors continue to conduct follow-ups with all food premises throughout the run of the CNE.
"The CNE is very concerned about this situation and the people who have been affected by it," said a statement posted Wednesday morning on the Exhibition's website. "The CNE has stringent food safety regulations in place which are monitored daily."
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