Thunder Bay

Maltese Grocery suspends catering after illness outbreak

A Thunder Bay grocery store has suspended its catering operation pending the outcome of an investigation into the source of a number of cases of illness in the city.

Long-time Thunder Bay grocery store owners say incident has been 'devastating'

The owners of the Maltese Grocery store in Thunder Bay have suspended their catering operations after dozens of people became sick after eating food at catered events in the city last Thursday. (Gord Ellis/CBC)

A Thunder Bay grocery store has temporarily put its catering operation on ice pending the outcome of an investigation into the source of a number of cases of illness in the city.

The Thunder Bay district health unit said the Maltese Grocery store owners took the voluntary precaution after reports that 67 people became ill after attending social events catered by Maltese.

"We have no positive links with food yet," said Abby Mackie, senior public health inspector with the Thunder Bay District Health Unit.

"But again we're still fairly early on in the investigation and … lab analysis haven't been completed on food yet."

The health unit is still suspecting the illness is a Norwalk-like virus.

'Err on the side of caution'

Mackie said the company is working co-operatively to identify possible causes, and that it has a good inspection record. The sale of over-the-counter meat products and other foods at the store are not affected by the suspension of catering.

Owners Lisa and Dave Maltese said that in the 80 years the store has been in operation, they have never had anything like this happen.

"We value our customers," they stated in a press release issued with the health unit.

"If there is any chance that something we are doing is causing harm to the people we care about, then we want to err on the side of caution and stop all catering, for now."

Lisa Maltese told CBC News the incident has been "devastating to us."

"We feel very bad for our customers, and for our staff, and that's why we suspended our catering voluntarily," she said. "We are involved hands-on [in the investigation.] Whatever they've asked, we have fully complied.  We have given them 100 per cent of our support, and they have supported us 100 per cent."