E. coli O157:H7 linked to Western Fair in London, Canada, again, 10 years after 159 sickened

There are more people tragically sick with E. coli O157:H7 from what looks like another petting zoo.

But this would be especially tragic – or hopelessly sad — if proven.

In 1999, 159 people, mainly children, were thought to be sickened with E. coli O157:H7 traced to goat and sheep at the 1999 Western Fair in London, Ontario. That’s in Canada.

Scott Weese, a clinical studies professor at the University of Guelph (that’s also in Canada) and colleagues reported in the July 2007 edition of Clinical Infectious Diseases that in a study of 36 petting zoos in Ontario between May and October of 2006, they observed infrequent hand washing, food sold and consumed near the animals, and children being allowed to drink bottles or suck on pacifiers in the petting area.

There’s been several outbreaks linked to petting zoos and state fairs in the U.K., Vancouver and Denver; and that’s just this year. A complete table of outbreaks is available at http://barfblog.foodsafety.ksu.edu/uploads/file/Petting%20zoo%20outbreaks%20chart%20bites(1).pdf.

Now, 10 years later, initial reports are emerging that four people who visited the Western Fair Agri-plex (that’s in London, Ontario, Canada) sometime between September 11 and 20, 2009, have been infected with the same strain of E. coli O157:H7.

The health unit is asking anyone who developed severe diarrhea after visiting the Western Fair to contact them at (519) 663-5317 ext 2330.

Sorry for the Salmonella says food services

The University of Western Ontario has taken what one newspaper called "the unusual step" of apologizing the salmonella food poisoning outbreak that has been linked to its on-campus food service.

The move comes a day after some pushback to statements made by Susan Grindrod, Associate Vice-President of Housing and Ancillary Services, who earlier said,

"This is the first [salmonella contamination] we’ve had in 25 years. … We serve 30,000 people per week, and while it’s nice to have sanitary practices, there’s no 150 per cent guarantee.”

In the apology yesterday, Grindrod said,

“We have made a number of recommended changes to further improve all our food handling and sanitary practices. These include the installation of hands-free sanitization stations at entrances to the Centre Spot, the hiring of an independent health and safety inspector to provide suggestions on enhanced food safety processes, and further measures to avoid cross contamination between foods.” 

What Grindrod did not mention is the steps Western takes to verify that suppliers — especially suppliers of fresh fruits and vegetables — are taking steps to reduce the risk of contamination from the farm through to the Western receiving dock.

The Rochester Post-Bulletin in Minnesota reported yesterday that a salmonella outbreak that sickened 20 who ate at a Quizno’s Subs had been traced to tomatoes that were contaminated before they even got to the restaurant.

85 confirmed with Salmonella at Western, frustration increasing

The Middlesex-London Health Unit reports that the number of people confirmed with salmonella food poisoning at the University of Western Ontario jumped by eight bringing the official toll to 85, with dozens of others suspected.

At least five students have been hospitalized from the illness.

Competing letters in the Western student paper, the Gazette, provide a glimpse of the growing frustration.

Mark Lepore says 85 confirmed sick people is no biggie:

"As with every food operation, there is always a risk of contamination. While measures are taken to prevent this — and Western is pretty strict — it is bound to happen eventually. …

"Yes, people were made sick and suffered discomfort, but before criticizing the first salmonella outbreak in 25 years, try looking around your own house for sanitation problems."

Susan Varills, has a less complacent view, saying she was "shocked and dismayed" by comments made by Susan Grindrod, vice-president housing and ancillary services at Western, in a Nov. 23 story,

"This is the first [salmonella contamination] we’ve had in 25 years. … We serve 30,000 people per week, and while it’s nice to have sanitary practices, there’s no 150 per cent guarantee.”

As a former cook, Varills asks,

"… is she kidding? First of all, having sanitary practices at a public food service establishment isn’t supposed to be “nice” – it’s supposed to be mandatory. After all, it is the law to ensure the food you prepare and serve is not contaminated.

"If a regular restaurant had such a contamination with so many confirmed cases, they would not only face closure, but I’m sure such a restaurant would face a number of lawsuits.

"The high level of traffic through Food Services is no excuse to become lax on sanitary practices; instead, the opposite should be true!"

Thanks for the salmonella, Western food services

With the number of confirmed cases of Salmonella food poisoning reaching 77 at the University of Western Ontario Friday — and over 50 more showing symptoms — Erin Haertel, an Astrophysics II student expressed his feelings in the student paper, The Western Gazette:

I would like to thank and congratulate you, Western Food Services. No really, thank you. Finally, you have successfully sent us asshole university students to the hospital with your shitty-ass food.

We certainly appreciate the experience. Yep, thoroughly enjoyable. Although some people may have missed the sign that said: “Today’s Special: Pay $5 for tasteless crap and receive free salmonella poisoning.”

I can’t believe that deal even included ceaseless vomiting and diarrhea — a regular value of your health — only at the cost of your grades! That’s okay — we didn’t have to write that midterm anyway.

It’s unfortunate it was only available for a limited time while contaminated quantities lasted. Or at least until the Middlesex-London health inspectors got on the scene. Oh, by the way, the inspectors are sorry for their absence before the outbreak — they were on vacation in Fiji.

One teensy problem, though — I guess the “general public” prefers to stay healthy (I know, what gives?) and people view a hospital as a place to go when something is “wrong.”

So maybe it’s not a good idea to slack when it comes to health and safety. Just a suggestion. Oh, and apparently people have a problem with expired food. I just thought I’d throw that out there.

But good job on the food variety — now we have healthy food places. I can get Evian water for $3 and a salad for only $6, which is understandable considering the two and a half cherry tomatoes are really expensive.

So, again, thank you so much for realizing people actually live on campus (key word: live), and providing them with some drama over Western’s ass-tastic food. A business with legal issues never bores.

132 now sick with Salmonella at Ontario university

The number of confirmed cases of salmonella food poisoning at the University of Western Ontario climbed by six yesterday, bringing the total number of lab-confirmed cases to 70, with more than 50 others who haven’t been tested, but show symptoms consistent with salmonella infection.

Bryna Warshawsky, associate medical officer of health with the Middlesex-London Health Unit, said it’s hard to tell if the outbreak is starting to slow, adding,

 "You can’t really judge that until you have seen several days of consistent numbers. We would like to get down to zero. We are hoping as we get into next week and more than a week past the thorough cleaning and disinfection that we will get down to zero."

It may require more than cleaning. Check employee practices and the food safety standards of suppliers, especially fresh fruits and vegetables.

97 sick with Salmonella at University of Western Ontario

Bryna Warshawsky, the associate medical officer of health at the Middlesex-London Health Unit, said yesterday that 11 new laboratory-confirmed cases of Salmonella have brought the total of confirmed cases to 53 along with another 44 exhibiting symptoms.

Five people have been hospitalized, mainly to treat dehydration.

Out of the previous laboratory-confirmed cases, 29 individuals ate at the Pita Pit at the University Community Centre food court, the Centre Spot. A dozen others also ate at the Centre Spot, but not the Pita Pit.

Out of the 44 people showing symptoms that haven’t been confirmed by lab tests, 31 reported eating at the Pita Pit.

Health officials theorize the salmonella contamination originated at the Pita Pit, and spread to other food preparation services at the food court.

Or it was a common ingredient like tomatoes.