Lawsuit continues for 235 sickened with E. coli O157:H7 at Harvey’s in Ontario in 2008

In the fall of 2008, 235 people got sick dining at a Harvey’s fast-food restaurant at a major thoroughfare in North Bay, Ontario, about four hours north of Toronto (that’s in Canada).

A report by the North Bay and District Health Unit concluded the outbreak was probably caused by raw Spanish onions and poor cleaning of onion slicing machines.

Today, the North Bay Nugget reported that depositions are scheduled to continue this month in a class-action suit against the restaurant, according to the law firm handling the claim.

The statement of claim alleges Cara Operations Ltd., 1233280 Ontario Inc. and Summit Food Distributors were negligent because they provided food or beverages contaminated with E. coli, says the website for law firm Sutts, Strosberg LLP.

It says depositions started in November with a representative from each party asked questions about documents that had been produced and issues in the lawsuit.

These examinations were adjourned when it was learned the franchise owner also filed a separate lawsuit against Cara and others claiming the outbreak at the restaurant "ruined their business and caused the business to be sold at a loss."

The claim was filed on behalf of all people who ate the restaurant from Sept. 12, 2008 to Oct. 12, 2008 and all people who were infected due to secondary contact with them.

Ontario E. coli outbreak likely caused by Spanish onions: 235 sickened

In a refreshing change for Canadian public health, a report has actually been issued regarding an outbreak of foodborne illness – specifically the 235 people who got sick dining at a Harvery’s restaurant at a major thoroughfare in North Bay, Ontario, last fall, four hours north of Toronto.

Apparently it was the Spanish onions.

The North Bay and District Health Unit also criticized the inconsistent cleaning practice of the onion dicer (below, left, exactly as shown).

The full report is available at

Some questions: where did the onions come from? Health types say they don’t know. How could a Harvey’s not know where its onions were coming from? Or at least provide a list of options? There were also outbreaks of E. coli O157:H7 in southern Ontario at the same time. Same onions?

Ontario E. coli victim needs help

Canada has the best healthcare system in the world.

At least that’s what Canadians are taught to believe. Never underestimate the persuasive power of wanting to believe.

The family of a seven-year-old boy who suffered complications from the North Bay, Ontario, E. coli outbreak which has sickened 249, needs help as they remain with their young son in a Toronto hospital.

Sylvie MacDonald, Carter’s mother, said,

“This is a nightmare. And asking for help is definitely one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. We don’t like to do this, but I don’t know how long this could last. It could last forever.”

The child from Mattawa was airlifted to Toronto after he was brought into the North Bay and District Hospital Oct. 24.

Manager served ice cream allegedly containing poop; chef offers his DNA for testing

The gelato caper gripping Australia had several twists and a couple of great soundbites Tuesday morning (Australia time).

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that security camera footage of an incident in which staff at the Coogee Bay Hotel allegedly served a family a cup of gelato laced with human faeces shows the dessert being delivered to the family by the restaurant’s manager. …

"She was concerned about the family’s experience and she had the idea of offering a complimentary dessert to try and make some amends," said the hotel’s general manager, Tony Williams.

Meanwhile, the family’s lawyer, Steven Lewis, of Slater & Gordon, also rubbished newspaper reports the family had links to a rival pub as a "Kevin Bacon … six degrees of separation [defence]. My question is: ‘Did Kevin Bacon put the faeces in the ice-cream?"’.

Stephen and Jessica Whyte, along with their three young children and another family, were at the hotel to watch the NRL grand final, but after a series of complaints became suspicious when they were given a free bowl of gelato. "The real issue is that we were fed, as a family, shit, at someone’s pub," Mr Whyte told 2UE.

Yesterday the NSW Food Authority announced it was investigating, and the hotel’s management confirmed it had contacted Maroubra police in preparation for possible criminal charges against anyone who might have tampered with food at the hotel.

Meanwhile, the head chef at the Coogee Bay Hotel, Adam Wood, who had tendered his resignation before the incident and had continued to work at the hotel for several weeks afterwards, offered to put himself up for DNA testing.

Mr Wood’s arrival was trumpeted by the hotel’s general manager, Tony Williams, in a media statement about the hotel’s revamped beer garden this month.

"Executive Chef Adam Wood [was] poached from Japan where he headed up kitchens for the Swissotel, Osaka and Foreign Correspondent’s Press Club of Japan in Tokyo and brings extensive five star international and three hat experience with him," the statement read.

Why he resigned only weeks after being heralded as the hotel’s most senior chef remains unclear.

Over 200 sick with E. coli from Harvey’s; one child ‘very ill’ in hospital

The E. coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to a North Bay, Ontario, Harvey’s burger joint, is going from bad to worse.

The North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit said today there are now a total of 207 cases, of which 39 are lab confirmed for E. coli O157:H7.

“Although we can reveal few details to avoid identifying anyone, there is one child who is very ill and in hospital,” said Dr. Catherine Whiting, Medical Officer of Health. “This person meets the criteria for complications from an E. coli infection, specifically Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome or HUS.”

The restaurant has been closed since Oct. 12. That’s more than enough time for DNA fingerprinting and to see if there are any matches with rather numerous E. coli outbreaks going on throughout North America. The CBC reports food samples have tested negative for the E. coli strain, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s investigation has turned to testing food handlers. After only 11 days? Wow.  If this was an animal disease, CFIA would be all over it. But, it’s just people.

Someone says they’re sorry; Harvey’s president apologizes

Harvey’s Canada president Rick McNabb said Tuesday at a North Bay, Ontario, hotel that he’s sorry for the E. coli O157:H7 outbreak that has now stricken 190 people, of which 36 are laboratory confirmed.

". . . On behalf of our company, I just want to say how sorry we are that something happened here, despite the fact that we don’t know what it is, but it’s clear we were associated with it."

McNabb said the local franchise operator, Cindy Gibb, is distraught and this is overwhelming for her.

I speak to her daily," he said. She’s hurt, sorry and scared. The best-case scenario for everyone is to find the source."

North Bay E. coli outbreak – see it all on youtube

The use of video is changing public perceptions of foodborne illness outbreaks. At least that’s what we hypothesized after the 2006 E. coli in spinach outbreak. But check it out for yourself. Next time, get the head of CFIA or FDA on camera, explaining the basis for going public.

As of Monday, Oct. 20, 2008, there were a total of 141 cases, of which 28 are lab confirmed for E. coli O157:H7, which includes cases being investigated by six other health units in Ontario. The case numbers are down because further information has shown that 18 people are not part of this outbreak.

Does that mean there were 18 people who were sick that were part of another outbreak?

At this time, all of the 141 cases are linked to one location – the Harvey’s Restaurant in North Bay.

‘Razors in my stomach’ The human face of Harvey’s E. coli outbreak

Steve Carleton dubbed himself "Number 6" because when he was overcome with fierce stomach cramps last week and admitted to a northern Ontario hospital, health-care workers started numbering the beds.

While he jokes now that he "beat the rush," the 22-year-old North Bay police constable turns serious when recalling his bout with E. coli during an outbreak that, as of Sunday, may have sickened upwards of 159 people, mostly in his home town.

"It was like I had razor blades rolling around in my stomach, it was so excruciating," Carleton said.

"The pains were enough (that) you couldn’t stay in bed or sit down, because you’d sit down and it’d hit you again and you’d be up and it’d give you that urge and you’d have to run to the washroom again."

Carleton spent four, IV-drip-fuelled days recovering in hospital. He said he had earlier eaten a bacon cheeseburger at one of the busiest Harvey’s restaurants in the area.

"I consider myself pretty fit, and a healthy all around person," said Carleton, who exercises several times a week. "I couldn’t imagine an elderly person, or even a young child, being able to fight their way through it."

Despite E. coli cases, Oklahoma restaurant kept serving customers; not so in North Bay

A Harvey’s restaurant in North Bay, Ontario, Canada,  remains closed as the number of confirmed and suspected sick with E. coli O157:H7 climbed to 159 today.

The public health folks in North Bay must be going nuts, but they, along with the operators of Harvey’s, have put public health first and closed the restaurant until more is known.

Locust Grove, Oklahoma, was also hammered by an E. coli outbreak, E. coli O111, linked to dining at the Country Cottage restaurant in August.. One person died, 72 were hospitalized and 241 others got sick before the outbreak was contained.

Today it was revealed that State Health Department officials allowed the Country Cottage to stay open temporarily — even after confirming six of eight initial food poisoning victims had eaten its food, internal documents show. That decision may have resulted in additional people getting sick.

Health Department officials admitted last week there is no set threshold in such cases for closing a restaurant suspected of being the source of an outbreak.

There are no guidelines. Epidemiological investigations are full of uncertainty. So is most of what is known about foodborne illness. But after the Salmonella-in-tomatoes-jalapenos outbreak this summer, public health officials are seemingly reluctant to go public. Industry has attempted to take matters into their own hands – which they should have been doing anyway – and is increasingly challenging public health investigations with its own test results, and unfortunately overstating the value of their own tests.

Listeria in Maple Leaf deli meats, Salmonella in produce, E. coli in Ontario and Oklahoma. There are no guidelines on when to go public. Federal agencies like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency must come clean with the public and industry and articulate the basis for public notification, or even restaurant closures, during outbreaks of foodborne illness. Until then local health units are left cleaning up the mess.

146 stricken with E. coli from Harvey’s in Canada

The North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit is now reporting a total of 146 cases of which 24 are lab confirmed for E. coli O157:H7, linked to dining at a Harvey’s Restaurant on Algonquin Avenue in North Bay, Ontario.

Included are cases being investigated by 6 other health units in Ontario, and the people who are ill range from 1 to 90 years old. Some are in hospital receiving treatment, while most are recovering at home. 

“The Health Unit is screening staff at the restaurant located in North Bay.  This includes collecting samples and conducting interviews,” reports Dr. Catherine Whiting, Medical Officer of Health for the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit.  Health Unit staff continue to collect information and analyze data to ensure that all possible sources of E. coli O157:H7 are being investigated.  City of North Bay emergency crews also conducted extra testing on the municipal water last weekend.  Lab test results confirm that drinking water is not the source.