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CNE’s numbers slip amid bad weather, food poisoning

The Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) says this year’s attendance slid from a year ago because of “challenges,” including the widespread food poisoning from the Cronut burger.

GM David Bednar said in a release Thursday that this year’s fair attracted 1.36 million visitors over the course of the 18 day fair that began Aug. 16. That’s down two per cent from 1.39 million visitors in 2012.

The CNE said it faced its “fair” share of challenges this year, including some bad weather, construction and traffic congestion in the area, reduction in parking availability and the food-borne illnesses.

“Despite these setbacks, people continued to stream into the CNE and enjoy their day at the fair,” the company said.

The outbreak of food-borne illnesses was first reported four days into the fair. A Toronto Public Health investigation concluded the maple bacon jam topping on the Cronut burger was the culprit. Samples taken showed the jam was contaminated by Staphylococcus aureus toxin.

The food vendor Epic Burger and Waffles voluntarily closed while public health officials conducted their investigation. It reopened a week later and took the Cronut burger off its menu.

The public health department said 150 people were interviewed, and confirmed illness from the jam in 79 people – six of whom were hospitalized, with one requiring an overnight stay.

The next fair will held beginning Aug. 15, 2014.