Second Niagara restaurant closes over E. coli concerns

A second restaurant in the Niagara region closed Tuesday over fears of E. coli contamination, the restaurant’s owner confirmed Wednesday.

John Clark said he shut down his popular eatery, M. T. Bellies in Welland, Ont., on Tuesday after three people who had eaten there were reported to have E. coli.

A notice on the M. T. Bellies website said they had closed the kitchen portion of the 15-year-old restaurant as part of “a food safety investigation that may involve several Niagara restaurants.”

The bar remains open.

The closure in Welland follows a Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. restaurant that closed Friday due to an outbreak of the infectious food-borne bacteria.

The health agency is investigating 21 cases of E. coli, six of which have been confirmed to have been confirmed to be E. coli 0157: H7, a harmful strain of bacteria that can lead to bloody diarrhea, vomiting, stomach cramps and fever.

In severe cases, E. coli infection can lead to Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome, commonly referred to as hamburger disease.

The illness, which mostly affects children younger than five years old, can lead to kidney failure and death.

Clark said there is usually about one case of E. coli infection a year in the Niagara region, home to more than 420,000 people in cities such as Niagara Falls and St. Catharines.

“This year, it’s an anomaly, a very unusual situation,” said Clark from his restaurant, which he said had never closed due to food safety issues before. He said food inspectors were taking “scores of samples” to try to confirm the source of the contamination.

Clark would not comment on whether or not he thought the outbreak stemmed from a food distributor.

Niagara-on-the-lake is about 40 kilometres north of Welland. Both southern Ontario cities are within 20 kms. of the American border, raising concerns that the outbreaks could cross into the U.S.

The two closures are the second and third this month in Ontario. A Harvey’s fast food restaurant in North Bay, Ont. closed on Oct. 12 due to E. coli contamination.

More than 220 cases are being investigated in the central Ontario city, and 44 cases have been linked to the burger joint.

Dr. Catherine Whiting, North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit’s medical officer, said Tuesday that one child with E. coli had developed HUS. Another child was admitted to Sick Children’s Hospital in Toronto in critical condition over the weekend as a result of the outbreak.

E. coli cases originating at the Harvey’s have been confirmed in Quebec, British Columbia, and nine other regions in Ontario.

A $50-million class-action lawsuit was filed Friday against the owners of Harvey’s, Cara Operations Ltd.


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