Health unit pinpoints bacteria in Strathroy Portuguese Club food poisoning

Lab reports identified Clostridium perfringens bacteria in a sample of roast beef that served during the event. Middlesex-London Health Unit

Officials with the Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) say they’ve finished their investigation into an outbreak of food-borne illness at the Portuguese Canadian Club in Strathroy.

Health officials say they began receiving calls in late March from dozens of people who reported falling ill after attending a fundraising dinner at the Strathroy venue.

That prompted a site inspection from public health inspectors on April 1, which turned up one critical infraction and four non-critical infractions. However, those infractions were resolved in another report that was completed on April 10.

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The investigation gathered food samples from the event and stool samples from those who attended.

In lab reports, Clostridium perfringens enterotoxin turned up in two stool samples and Clostridium perfringens was found in a sample of roast beef — the former is what the latter bacteria turns into once digested.

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“We did take other food samples… it was only the roast beef that came back growing bacteria,” said Mary Lou Albanese, the manager of infectious disease for the MLHU.

Albanese added that the bacteria is quick-moving, often making people ill within 12 hours after ingesting.

“The common signs and symptoms are nausea and diarrhea. Some people can vomit and experience chills… it also passes quickly as well, within 24 to 36 hours.”

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Clostridium perfringens can be found in food that is cooked too slowly, cooled slowly, kept too warm in storage and/or reheated to a temperature that is too low.

“Then the spores that are existing start to multiply,” Albanese said.

“That’s why it’s important to keep meat at 60 C and to use food thermometers when cooking, making sure that leftovers or food is served or eaten within two hours of being cooked.”

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As for what happens next, Albanese says the MLHU is contacting those who became ill, letting them know the results of the investigation.

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“The owner and operator has been notified to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”

With warm weather on the horizon, Albanese said that those looking to barbecue over the summer should ensure that they are practicing proper food handling.

“This will prevent other food-borne illnesses from happening… a common source is just in our own kitchens or our own backyards.”

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