A major gastro outbreak at a Canberra doughnut bakery last year was likely caused by a sick worker whose hand hygiene “lapsed” and contaminated food with faecal matter, a Federal Health Department investigation has concluded.
It’s prompted a reminder for food handlers to stay away from work while ill.
A new report has confirmed at least 215 people were infected by norovirus which causes gastro. However, the report noted the full scale of the November outbreak will likely remain unknown.
Norovirus is spread either by direct contact with an infected person or the ingestion of faeces or vomit particles from an infected person.
Of the more than 200 people infected, only one was admitted to hospital on the day they ate the doughnut. This was attributed to them having previously had gastric sleeve surgery, which made them more susceptible to infection.
Investigators determined it was unlikely started by a sick patron, although food handlers did not provide stool samples for testing.
According to the report, “the proprietor also denied any reports of staff illness during the study period and reported no incidents of vomiting or diarrhoea among staff or patrons”.
The outbreak, which occurred between 20 to 24 November last year, is believed to have been the largest case of food poisoning in the ACT to date, overtaking the incident at Dickson’s Copa Brazilian in 2013, where 161 people were poisoned by bad aioli.
Doughnuts themselves were determined to be the cause of this outbreak. Of the 301 people who’d eaten from the business and were interviewed, the 215 who had gastro symptoms had all eaten a doughnut.
The business did sell other products, but these were prepared offsite.
Diarrhoea, vomiting and abdominal pain were the most commonly reported symptoms.
During the outbreak, the business catered for a work function with almost 200 doughnuts.
Investigators were able to use this to try to determine if a particular flavour was more likely to infect customers.
It could not, but it did conclude that filled doughnuts containing cream, custard, jam, caramel or Nutella had a higher likelihood of infection. This was likely because these flavours required more handling than others.
This is believed to be the first time a norovirus infection has been associated with doughnuts in Australia, the report noted.
A Google search appears to show the doughnut bakery is again “temporarily closed” and its social media pages have been deactivated.