Blame the U.S. for salmonella cases in Canada


The Public Health Agency confirmed 239 salmonella cases in Canada linked to onions imported from the United States.

“Do not eat, use, sell or serve any red, white, yellow and sweet yellow onions from Thomson International Inc. of Bakersfield, Calif., U.S.A, or any products made with these onions,” the agency said Friday.

The advice applies to people  across Canada, as well as retailers, distributors, manufacturers, including food service establishments such as hotels, restaurants, cafeterias, hospitals and nursing homes.

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Onions grown in Canada are not affected.

As of Friday, 239 salmonella cases of Newport illness linked to the outbreak have been reported. So here are provinces with the infected people:

  • British Columbia: 67.
  • Alberta: 149.
  • Saskatchewan: 5.
  • Manitoba: 13.
  • Ontario: 3.
  • Quebec: 1.
  • Prince Edward Island: 1.

 Since Aug. 2, Canadian investigators have found 119 more illnesses. 

People became sick between mid-June and late July 2020. Twenty-nine individuals ended up in the hospital. The health departments didn’t report deaths among the individuals, who range in age from less than a year to 100.

Symptoms of a salmonella infection typically start six to 72 hours after exposure, health officials say.

Earlier this week, Canadian Food Inspection Agency said Thomson International expanded its recall of red onions to also remove yellow, white and sweet yellow varieties from the grocery aisle.

The onions in different grocery stores of Canada come under the names El Competidor, Imperial Fresh, Onions 52, Tender Loving Care and Thomson International.

In the U.S. on Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said now there are 640 ill people from 43 states in the outbreak of Salmonella Newport infections. But of these, 85 people are under monitoring at the hospitals.

A food science professor at University of Guelph says onions may be hard to come by at the supermarket for a couple of weeks out of an abundance of caution about potential contamination.

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Leek and garlic alternatives

Keith Warriner said cooking kills salmonella in most cases. However, there’s concern that the bacteria could be on the outside of the onion, and could potentially spread to other parts of the kitchen; for instance, if residents don’t use separate cutting boards for separate items.

Federal health officials said if the packaging or sticker shows an onion is from Thomson International Inc., don’t eat it. Throw it away and wash your hands. Similarly, if you’re not sure of the source of your onions, you should throw it out.

It shouldn’t be too long until stores restock their shelves with onions grown outside of the U.S. Until then, the one-time chef suggests using alternatives such as leek and garlic to add some zest to your recipes.