The Middlesex-London Health Unit is continuing its investigation into the unusally high number of salmonella cases reported to it over the last couple of weeks. As of today, the Health Unit has been notified of 37 confirmed, six probable and one suspect case of salmonella infection since the 18th of August.

Salmonella bacteria (red)/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
Salmonella bacteria (red)/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)

There was no clear link between the surprising number of cases early in the investigation, but reports of two individuals with salmonella infections who had recently eaten at London’s Babylon Pizza and Shawarma, caught investigators’ attention. Public Health Inspectors visited the restaurant on August 25th, and working with the operator conducted a thorough cleaning and disinfection of the facility. Inspectors have conducted daily inspections since then and continue to provide food handler education to staff at the restaurant.

While it is important to note that not all of the salmonella cases can be linked to Babylon Pizza and Shawarma, extensive interviews and follow-up calls with those who became ill led Health Unit staff to conclude that 24 of the cases are associated with the eatery. There have been no reports of salmonella infection occurring in people who ate food at Babylon Pizza and Shawarma after August 25th. Although a link for many cases has been established, the Health Unit remains vigilant and continues to seek other potential sources of contamination.

“We rely on food premises operators to maintain the safety of the food they serve every day. Through our inspections, the education we provide and the resources we have available, there’s an expectation they’ll follow safe food handling practices,” says David Pavletic, Manager of Food Safety and Healthy Environments at the Middlesex-London Health Unit. “The measures Babylon’s owners have put in place since we started working closely with them, show their commitment to making sure proper food handling practices are in place.”

When the nine salmonella cases reported in September, and those associated with Babylon Pizza and Shawarma are excluded, the remaining 11 cases reported in August are close to the five-year average of nine cases for that month.

Salmonella is a bacterial infection characterized by the sudden onset of headache, fever, abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea and sometimes vomiting. Symptoms usually begin six to 72 hours after consuming contaminated food or beverages, and typically last between four and seven days; most people recover without antibiotic treatment. In some cases, diarrhea can be severe, requiring hospitalization. Salmonella can lead to medical complications in the very young, older adults and those who have certain underlying medical conditions.