American onions cause illness in 239 Canadians

A recall on onions imported from the United States has been updated and expanded by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to include various salsa, salad and sandwich items that have been distributed across western Canada. A complete list can be found at

As of Aug. 7, there were 239 confirmed Canadian cases of salmonella-related illness associated with the onions and products that contain them, 67 of them in British Columbia, 149 in Alberta, five in Saskatchewan and 13 in Manitoba. There were three cases reported in Ontario and one each in Quebec and Prince Edward Island. No deaths from the outbreak have been reported and Canadian onions are safe to eat.

The CFIA said red, yellow, white and sweet yellow onions grown by Thomson International based in Bakersfield, California, are the primary subject.

“These products may also have been purchased on-line or through various restaurant locations. They may also have been sold in bulk or in smaller packages with or without a label,” the CFIA said in an Aug. 7 release.

The onions have been distributed across Western Canada as well as the Northwest Territories, Yukon, Ontario and Quebec.

There are seven different types and brands in mesh sacks, cartons and boxes that were imported from California since May 1.

They were sourced or distributed by at least nine different food companies.

The CFIA said the recall was initiated by an outbreak of foodborne illness that prompted a recall by Thomson International Inc. in the United States.

“Although the investigation has determined that red onions are the likely source of the outbreak, Thomson International Inc. has recalled all varieties of onions that could have come in contact with potentially contaminated red onions, due to the risk of cross-contamination. Onion varieties includes red, white, yellow, and sweet yellow onions,” the Public Health Agency of Canada said.

“Given this new information, and until more is known about the outbreak, do not eat, use, sell or serve any red, white, yellow, and sweet yellow onions from Thomson International Inc., Bakersfield, California, USA, or any products made with these onions.

“This advice applies to all individuals across Canada, as well as retailers, distributors, manufacturers and food service establishments such as hotels, restaurants, cafeterias, hospitals and nursing homes.”

Those who have purchased the onions are advised to throw them out or return them to place of purchase.

People who are sick with salmonella usually recover with a few days but it can cause serious health damage in some individuals. Symptoms include fever, chills, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, headache, nausea and vomiting.

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