The Thunder Bay District Health Unit is investigating a suspected foodborne illness after dozens of people fell ill following a banquet at the Moose Hall on Fort William Road.

Officials estimate that 20 percent of the 270 patrons at a Christmas dinner December 13th developed symptoms including severe cramping, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. The illness occurred within a few hours of the meal and was short-lived, with symptoms lasting an average of 24 hours.

Moose Hall

People who ate at a December 13th Christmas party at the Moose Hall on Fort William Road suddenly fell ill

No deaths or hospitalizations have been reported.

The Moose Hall has been charged under the Health Protection and Promotion Act with failing to protect food from contamination.  "We have identified some significant elements of temperature abuse. Things being left out for long periods of time, neither hot enough nor cool enough, sort of right at that room temperature range," said Lee Sieswerda, manager of the environmental health program at the health unit. Sieswerda said it is "not the correct way to handle food."

Food production closed pending investigation

He added that food production at the hall has also been shut down pending the outcome of the investigation.  

Sieswerda told the CBC that a public health inspector was able to obtain ten food samples from the kitchen, which have been sent to laboratories in Thunder Bay and Toronto in an effort to identify a pathogenic agent.  He said results may be back next week.  

In the meantime, the health unit is trying to contact the people who attended the banquet last Friday, to find out what food they ate at the function. Besides Thunder Bay, the patrons came from Greenstone, Dryden, Kenora and other communities.