Image courtesy Epic Burgers and Waffles Facebook page.
Nearly three-dozen people have come down sick after eating at the CNE, according to Toronto Public Health.
At a press conference at TPH headquarters on Wednesday, associate medical officer of health Dr. Lisa Berger told reporters that the agency is now investigating 34 separate cases of people experiencing symptoms of food-borne illness following meals at the Ex.
On Tuesday, 12 people were treated by the EMS and five were taken to hospital. The number of reported cases has grown since then.
Many of those who have fallen ill have reported eating the cronut burger, a novelty menu item made up of a meat patty sandwiched between two croissant-donut hybrid buns. Although Dr. Berger confirmed that the CNE closed Epic Burgers and Waffles, the home of the cronut, on Tuesday night, TPH has yet to pinpoint the source of the apparent outbreak.
"At this point we cannot confirm the food source. We are investigating the cronut burger, we are investigating various other food items there, and we can't confirm right now," she said.
Epic Burgers and Waffles is the focus of TPH's investigation however, and it remains voluntarily closed. All food at the outlet has been disposed of, and samples have been sent to the public health laboratory for testing. Results are expected within 48 to 72 hours.
Although it is perhaps no surprise that eating a stunt food like the cronut could lead to a less-than-healthy outcome, Dr. Berger said that the novelty chow that the CNE is famous for poses no increased risk of food-borne illness than a regular meal. But she added that she couldn't comment "on the danger in regards to the caloric value of the cronut burger."
"We consider that the risk to the general public at the CNE is currently low, and we encourage people to continue to attend the CNE, to enjoy the CNE," she said.
David Bednar, general manager of the CNE, also attended the press conference. In response to one reporter's question, he confirmed that the operator of Epic Burger and Waffles has several other locations at the exhibition, but said he could not remember offhand which ones they were. He described the vendor as "a reputable operator" who "has cooperated fully" with TPH.
He conceded however that the rash of reported sickness was "a significant concern."
"Wherever this investigation takes us, whatever we need to do to make sure that this doesn't happen again, we're going to attempt to do that," he said. "The Exhibition is not someplace to come and get sick. Except of course we make you sick by putting you on a ride, that's a different story."
Bednar wouldn't speculate as to whether the reported food poisoning would deter visitors from coming to the CNE.
"Hard to say. I would like to think that people have enough confidence in us to know that we've reacted appropriately to this, we've taken all the necessary steps. People have to make their own decisions, and I understand that. But we literally do everything in our power to prevent this sort of thing from happening."
TPH is asking anyone who has experienced the symptoms of food-borne illness - which include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, cramping, and diarrhea - after visiting the CNE to seek medical attention and call 311 to report it to the health agency.
TPH is expected to update the media on its investigation on Thursday.