Canada’s National Exhibition (CNE) Food Safety: Post-Cronut Burger

It’s that time of year again – summer is rolling to an end, the office is deserted, and the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) is open for business. Established more than 135 years ago, the CNE annual fair is known for its agricultural innovations, classic (and perhaps a bit rusty) rides and more recently, its unique and unlikely hybrid food.

With this food craze, the CNE has offered up novelty food items such as deep fried Mars bars and Nutella fries. Last year’s most notorious offerings were the bacon and peanut butter milkshake and of course, the infamous cronut burger. Now while you might think the cronut burger, a half-croissant half-donut bun with a beef patty smeared with maple bacon jam, is well-known for its interesting ingredients, think again.

The cronut burger gained its infamy after sending hundreds to the hospital with food poisoning in August 2013. While thankfully there were no fatalities, there were over 250 reported cases of food poisoning, one of the biggest food-borne illness outbreaks in Canada.

The Toronto Public Health (TPH) investigation into the incident identified the culprit as the maple bacon jam, which had been contaminated by Staphylococcus aureus toxin, a main cause of food- borne illness. The TPH said the topping had been stored at the wrong temperature, allowing for the bacteria to develop in the jam. While the burger was then voluntarily removed from the vendor’s menu, the damage had already been done to both the restaurant and CNE’s reputation for food safety.

This year though, the CNE has implemented stricter rules for food safety. Vendors were required to provide a full list of all the foods they planned to prepare and sell. Twenty food inspectors were on site at the CNE’s food building on opening day to conduct a full inspection and carefully reviewed the temperature items were stored at. Off-site inspections for food to be brought into the CNE were also conducted and the CNE also has a small group of food inspectors working daily while the fair is open. All of these steps are geared toward the prevention of any food safety issues, such as cross-contamination.

Food safety and quality assurance continues to be a major area of concern for organizations in the food and beverage industry. The number of recalls, outbreaks and illnesses seems to be continuously increasing, as organizations outsource products and have multiple tiers of suppliers and vendors. Many organizations in the food and beverage sector are turning to food safety management systems to streamline their safety processes and ensure quality across their supply chains. A management system ensures the highest level of food safety and food quality while providing 100% traceability across their entire supply chain.

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