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Edmonton teen has emergency surgery after Folk Fest food poisoning

cbc.ca, Sept. 4, 2017, by Emily Rendell-Watson

Salmonella poisoning linked to food booth at Edmonton Folk Music Festival

An Edmonton teenager has undergone emergency surgery to remove her appendix after contracting salmonella poisoning from a food booth at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival.

Talia Johnson said she ate mango butter chicken from the Haweli Restaurant food booth on her first night at the festival, Friday, Aug. 11. She only started to feel sick on the Monday after the festival wrapped up.

"I had a very high fever and my heart was racing faster than it should have been," said Johnson.

"Eventually my lips started to turn blue. My circulation was so poor because I had almost no appetite and couldn't eat anything."

Johnson went to a hospital in Barrhead, Alta., where she was working at a summer camp. 

Doctors there took blood samples but Johnson wasn't diagnosed with salmonella poisoning until she went to the Grey Nuns Community Hospital in Edmonton on Aug. 19.

She was also diagnosed with appendicitis, apparently caused by the salmonella, and underwent emergency surgery to remove her appendix, she said.

"I have a little bit of pain where I had surgery but besides that I'm feeling a lot better," Johnson said Monday.

Aside from missing work at the summer camp, Johnson also had to take time off from her second job at a restaurant to recover.

"In total, I'm missing about a month of work at those two jobs which is really unfortunate," she said.

Johnson is barred from working at the restaurant until Sept. 11 because of the risk of spreading the foodborne illness.

One of 19 cases at Folk Fest

Johnson is one of 19 salmonella cases linked to the Haweli Restaurant food booth at the festival.

She said her friend's dad also got sick after eating at the booth on the Sunday night of the festival.

Alberta Health Services said salmonella can be spread through contaminated food and unclean cooking surfaces.

Salmonella can cause severe dehydration.

AHS said that Environmental Public Health has since inspected the downtown Haweli Restaurant and inspectors are satisfied that food safety requirements are being met.

Despite losing a month's worth of income, Johnson starts studying nutrition at the University of Alberta this week.

"It is really bad timing," she said. "I could have used the extra income with having to pay for textbooks and tuition coming up."

Johnson said Folk Fest organizers have not contacted her about the incident. Organizers did not respond to requests for comment about this story Monday.