Officials probe cause as dozens sickened after local Ducks Unlimited fundraising dinner

There was this time, I was editor of the Port Colborne New, a weekly broadsheet in 1988.

Katija came from that area.

There was one night, and the only night, me and a bunch of friends did magic mushrooms (which are being considered for medicinal purposes) ran along the waterfront, terrified by nothing, and then went to my home and someone fell through a window.

The primary story I covered in Port Colborne (and yes, I did live in a trailer) was the development of a new port, and how the duck hunters of Ducks Unlimited wanted it stopped.

They lost.

The Free Press in London, Ontario (that’s in Canada, not England) reports that at  least 57 people got sick after attending a recent Ducks Unlimited fundraising dinner in Strathroy, prompting local health officials to investigate a possible case of mass food poisoning..

The Middlesex-London Health Unit received public complaints from people who got sick after attending a sold-out dinner for Strathroy-Caradoc Ducks Unlimited at the Strathroy Portuguese Canadian Club March 30.

“We don’t know the micro-organism yet. We haven’t had lab confirmation of anything yet, but all of their symptoms were gastrointestinal, diarrhea and vomiting. Some had a fever, some had nausea,” said Mary Lou Albanese, the health unit’s infectious disease control team manager.

The reported illnesses prompted a public health inspection of the facility two days later. The inspector found five infractions in the April 1 site visit, including one critical non-compliance issue that had the potential to pose an immediate food-borne illness risk.

The inspector found the facility failed to maintain pest control measures, didn’t have a trained food handler supervising the kitchen and didn’t ensure utensils, equipment and facilities were cleaned and sanitized. The inspector’s report also found the dishwasher wasn’t designed or maintained to ensure utensils are sanitized and the kitchen’s walls and ceilings weren’t kept clean and in good repair.

The inspector issued three remediation actions to the club, including implementing food handler education for its employees.

The facility was given a passing grade by health inspectors.

In a statement, Strathroy-Caradoc Ducks Unlimited said they’re “devastated” people fell ill at their fundraiser.

“Our thoughts go out to those affected and the families who are dealing with this unfortunate situation,” the group said.


Rust never sleeps.

Is your in-laws’ cooking a food safety failure

The occasional relative will welcome my help in the kitchen. That’s Amy’s aunt Jean (right) as we prepped dinner in Minnesota a couple of weeks ago. We talked food safety and I complimented her on stringent thermometer use.

But many dinners with family or friends can be food safety nightmares. Cross-contamination is rampant, temperature control inadequate, and the source of ingredients suspect.

Someone called Grossed Out wrote the Toronto Sun to say her mother-in-law does not wash her hands.

“During our Christmas visit, she and I went grocery shopping. We returned and prepared the leftovers. She "re-mashed" the potatoes with her bare hands — without ever washing her hands. … Is there any way to bring this to her attention without hurting her feelings?”

Columnist Amy Dickinson responds,

“This is extremely unappetizing, not to mention unhealthy. If your mother-in-law handled uncooked chicken or shellfish and then plunged her unwashed hands directly into a bowl of mashed potatoes, for instance, this could cross-contaminate foods and spread foodborne illness.

“If you were pregnant and contracted Listeria from these unsanitary practices, it could be disastrous. …

“Try saying: ‘Mom, I’m very concerned about hand washing in the kitchen and I notice you’re pretty casual about it. Can you help me out here? I feel like I can’t eat comfortably unless the cook washes her hands often.’"

Other suggestions?