A recall on onions imported from the United States, first announced in late July, continues to result in illnesses among Canadians due to salmonella contamination. Alberta has more than half the reported cases of illness.
An investigation continue, and the Public Health Agency of Canada on Sept. 14 said 49 additional illnesses have been reported since Aug. 31, bringing the total number of cases to 506.
Onions from Canada are deemed safe and are not part of the recall or the investigation.
“Do not eat, use, sell or serve any red, yellow, white, and sweet yellow onions grown by Thomson International Inc. of Bakersfield, California, U.S.A., or any products made with these onions,” the PHAC said in a news release.
“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.”
As of Sept. 14, Alberta had 292 cases of related illness, British Columbia had 116, Saskatchewan had 34 and Manitoba had 25. There are also cases in Ontario, Quebec and Prince Edward Island.
Those affected got sick between mid-June and mid-August. The health agency said they became ill after eating red onions at home, in restaurants or in residential care facilities.
“The U.S. CDC (Centers for Disease Control) is also investigating an outbreak of Salmonella Newport illnesses that have a similar genetic fingerprint to illnesses reported in this outbreak,” the agency said.
“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.”
Most people who get sick from salmonella recover in a few days and some people can spread it without showing any symptoms, the health agency said. Children younger than five, older adults, pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems can become seriously ill.
Consumers are advised to check the labels on any onions to determine origin and throw away any that came from California. Wash and sanitize any areas in contact with the onions or their packaging.
If ordering food, the agency said people should ask staff about the origin of any onions and if they don’t know, don’t order or eat items containing onions.
Symptoms of salmonella-related illness include fever, chills, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, headache, nausea and vomiting. They can last for four to seven day and often resolve without need for treatment.