Salmonella alert around American red onions
The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is advising individuals in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario to not eat any red onions imported to Canada from the U.S., including any food products that contain raw red onions imported from U.S.
Retailers and restaurants in these locations are also advised not to use, sell or serve red onions imported from the U.S. Red onions grown in Canada are not affected by this advice.
As the investigation is ongoing, it is possible that additional sources could be identified, and food recall warnings related to this outbreak may be issued. This public health notice will be updated as the investigation evolves.
As of July 30, there have been 114 confirmed cases of Salmonella Newport illness linked to this outbreak in the following provinces: British Columbia (43), Alberta (55), Manitoba (13), Ontario (two), and Prince Edward Island (one). The individual from Prince Edward Island reported travelling to Alberta before becoming ill. Saskatchewan has not reported any confirmed illnesses related to this outbreak, but provincial public health authorities are investigating some Salmonella Newport illnesses in the province, the PHAC reports.
“Individuals became sick between mid-June and mid-July 2020. Information is available for 102 illnesses. Out of 102 people, 16 individuals have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported. Individuals who became ill are between three and 100 years of age. The majority of cases (56%) are female.
“Individuals who became ill reported eating red onions at home, in menu items ordered at restaurants and in residential care settings.”
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is conducting a food safety investigation. If contaminated food products are identified, CFIA will take the necessary steps to protect the public, including recalling the product as required.
As a result of this investigation, Sysco is recalling red onions imported from the USA from the marketplace due to possible Salmonella contamination. Consumers should not consume the recalled products described below or foods containing these raw red onions. Food service establishments, institutions, retailers, distributors and manufacturers should not serve, use, or sell the recalled products described below. These may also have been purchased from Sysco on-line or through various restaurant locations.
Sysco is recalling red onions in Western Canada through the following locations: Victoria, Vancouver, Kelowna, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Regina. The CFIA will continue its investigation into other possible importers and additional recalls may follow.
The CFIA is verifying that industry is removing the recalled products from the marketplace.
The U.S. CDC is also investigating an outbreak of Salmonella Newport illnesses that have a similar genetic fingerprint to illnesses reported in this outbreak. Investigators in Canada and the U.S. continue to collaborate to exchange information and identify commonalities in the outbreak information that may identify additional sources of illness or help to identify the cause of contamination in the red onions.
“It is possible that more recent illnesses may be reported in the outbreak because there is a period of time between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported to public health officials. For this outbreak, the illness reporting period is between two and four weeks,” PHAC stated.
Who is most at risk?
“Anyone can become sick with a Salmonella infection, but children aged 5 years and under, older adults, pregnant women or people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk for contracting serious illness,” PHAC outlined.
“Most people who become ill from a Salmonella infection will recover fully after a few days. It is possible for some people to be infected with the bacteria and to not get sick or show any symptoms, but to still be able to spread the infection to others.”
If you think you became sick from consuming a recalled product, call your doctor.
Check to see if you have the recalled products in your home, restaurant or institution. Recalled products should be thrown out or returned to the store where they were purchased. If you are unsure of the identity of red onions in your possession, check with your place of purchase.
Food contaminated with Salmonella may not look or smell spoiled but can still make you sick.
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