Lab test confirms spice contaminated with aconite behind poisoning at Markham restaurant

A spice product linked to a mass poisoning at a Markham restaurant last weekend has tested positive for the aconite toxin, York Region public health officials have confirmed.

Twelve people fell ill and needed to be hospitalized after dining at Delight Restaurant & BBQ located at Castlemore Avenue and Markham Road on Aug. 27 and Aug. 28. Of the dozen, four were admitted to intensive care.

Local health officials subsequently closed the restaurant for investigation and sent food samples to a lab to identify what caused the incident. They suspected that a toxin called aconite found in herbs, roots or one particular flower was behind the poisoning.

If consumed, the toxin can cause diarrhea, convulsions or arrhythmias. It can be potentially deadly, with one expert saying as little as two milligrams of aconite can be lethal to humans.

In a news release on Thursday, officials said laboratory testing confirmed what they suspected. One of the spices used in the restaurant — Mr. Right brand Keampferia Galanga Powder — tested for aconite. The contaminated package has a product code AT154.

The other package of the powder with the code AT119 tested negative, officials said.

York Region public health is alerting the public to two products linked to a food poisoning investigation at a Markham, Ont., restaurant. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-York Region Public Health)

Earlier, health officials advised the public not to use the Keampferia Galanga Powder, a common spice in Asian cuisine, and the Mr. Right brand Radix Aconiti Kusnezoffii Powder and to throw them away as the products were believed to have been tainted with the toxin.

Officials say the products have been removed from all retail locations in York Region.

“In our previous communication, we recommended individuals and businesses dispose of all Mr. Right brand Keampferia Galanga Powder regardless of the packaging code. We continue to recommend this action out of an abundance of caution as we do not know if there was cross-contamination of this product, and the consequences of consuming even a small amount are very severe,” officials said in a statement released Thursday evening.

They added that the distributor of Mr. Right brand Keampferia Galanga Powder has agreed to voluntarily recall the product.

Delight Restaurant & BBQ on Markham Rd. can be seen above.

Meanwhile, officials said all affected individuals are improving, and only one person remains in hospital.

Officials previously noted that there is no indication that the poisoning was deliberate.

The restaurant reopened on Wednesday after passing an inspection.

– with files from CTV Toronto staff and The Canadian Press

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