Toronto Public Health has confirmed the Cronut burger – a cheeseburger sandwiched between two doughnut-croissant hybrid pastries – is to blame for more than 150 people falling ill.
The city agency launched an investigation when dozens of people reported getting sick after eating at the Canadian National Exhibition this week. EPIC Burgers and Waffles, the food vendor that serves the Cronut burger, closed and was the focus of the probe, leading many to suspect the novelty concoction was the cause of the outbreak.
Public health officials interviewed more than 100 of the individuals who became ill.
"Based on information from the ill individuals, the only common food exposure that they had was the Cronut burger served by EPIC Burgers," said David McKeown, Toronto's medical officer of health, adding the investigation did not find any other CNE food associated with the outbreak.
He said laboratory tests showed samples of the Cronut burger were contaminated with Staphylococcus aureus, a bacterial toxin that can cause food poisoning. Symptoms of Staphylococcus aureus food poisoning usually appear within one to six hours of eating contaminated food and can last for three days. They include nausea, vomiting and abdominal cramping, according to the agency.
Health officials have not yet determined which part of the burger was contaminated; however, foods that are frequently affected by the toxin include meat and egg products.
EPIC Burgers and Waffles will remain closed at the CNE food building until public health officials can determine exactly what went wrong.
"We want to make sure that when the reopening occurs, the food is safe," Dr. McKeown said.
The Cronut burger attracted the spotlight even before the CNE had opened. The burger draws off the popularity of the Cronut craze in New York City, where patrons line up for hours to try the treat. The pastry's inventor has patented the name and even threatened legal action against other restaurants cashing in on the hype.
Jaren Wade, a 23-year-old from Mississauga, and his girlfriend each had a Cronut burger when visiting the CNE on Tuesday. He said when they got home that night, he vomited so many times, he lost count. His girlfriend was also vomiting, but his sister and other friends who hadn't eaten the Cronut burger were all fine.
"The only thing me and my girlfriend had in common was the Cronut [burger]," he said.
CNE general manager David Bednar said the overriding concern for the CNE is the health and safety of patrons. He added the outbreak doesn't seem to have deterred patrons from attending the exhibition and eating the food.
"Generally, the attendance has been great," he said. "The people I've talked to have expressed no reluctance whatsoever to walk about, eat, see the fair and engage in their normal fair activities."