Learning from the past: Toronto Public Health steps up CNE vendor focus after 2013 outbreak

At the 2013 version of the Truth North’s state fair, the Canadian National Exhibition, over 200 people fell ill with Staph aureus poisoning linked to cronut burgers. Epic Burgers and Waffles, the vendor, purchased maple bacon jam from Le Dolci Cupcakes and Cakes; which neither business refrigerated. Too bad since the water activity was .97 and the jam had a pH of 5.8 – decent conditions for the bacteria to grow and create the toxin.

As a result of the outbreak, according to CTV, the good folks at Toronto Public Health are working with food vendors to assess risks by going through product and ingredient lists. Toronto food safety Superman and barfblog friend Sylvanus Thompson will be leading the charge.Unknown-4

This year, vendors will be required to provide the CNE a full list of all the foods they will be preparing and selling. Food inspectors will also be paying closer attention to the temperature items are being stored at.

Another measure the CNE will be introducing is off-site inspections for food items that will be served up on the fair grounds.

“If it’s in Toronto, we’ll be inspecting those premises prior to the food being taken to the CNE,” Sylvanus Thompson, a Toronto Public Health spokesperson, told CTV Toronto. “We’ll be looking at all the foods that will be transported to the CNE to ensure there is no … cross-contamination.”

The CNE’s general manager David Bednar says food safety at the fair “has always been and will always be a top priority.” He says he believes most people who will be attending the fair this year will not be worried about becoming ill when they bite into something sweet or savoury.

“I’m absolutely confident people have the confidence they need to come to the CNE and enjoy a meal and not worry about being sick,” Bednar told CTV Toronto.

This year, 20 food inspectors will be on site at the CNE’s food building on the fair’s opening day to conduct a full inspection. They will return a week later to conduct another full inspection. There will also be small group of food inspectors working at the CNE daily.

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About Ben Chapman

Dr. Ben Chapman is a professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University. As a teenager, a Saturday afternoon viewing of the classic cable movie, Outbreak, sparked his interest in pathogens and public health. With the goal of less foodborne illness, his group designs, implements, and evaluates food safety strategies, messages, and media from farm-to-fork. Through reality-based research, Chapman investigates behaviors and creates interventions aimed at amateur and professional food handlers, managers, and organizational decision-makers; the gate keepers of safe food. Ben co-hosts a biweekly podcast called Food Safety Talk and tries to further engage folks online through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and, maybe not surprisingly, Pinterest. Follow on Twitter @benjaminchapman.