Cedar-grilled corn and red onion salsa is seen in this April 6, 2010 photo. Health authorities are warning consumers in Central and Western to avoid eating red onions imported from the U.S. that have been linked to a Salmonella outbreak. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Larry Crowe

Onions may be in short supply as U.S. grower expands recall: expert

Agency says there are 120 confirmed cases in Canada, including 56 in Alberta, 43 in British Columbia

A food scientist says Canadians may have to seek out new sources of flavour as U.S.-grown onions are pulled from produce sections because of concerns about salmonella contamination.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says Thomson International is expanding its recall of red onions to include the yellow, white and sweet yellow varieties.

The Public Health Agency of Canada has identified the California-based grower’s red onions as a likely source of the salmonella outbreak across the country.

As of Aug. 2, the agency says there are 120 confirmed cases in Canada, including 56 in Alberta, 43 in British Columbia, 13 in Manitoba and four in Saskatchewan.

READ MORE: Salmonella cases in Western and Central Canada linked to U.S.-grown red onions

Keith Warriner, a food science professor at University of Guelph, said onions and related products may be hard to come by in the grocery aisle out of an abundance of caution about potential cross-contamination.

“Clear the shelves, start again. That’s the playbook,” Warriner said. “I think we’ll get our onions back soon enough, but I think you’ll notice (more product) recalls in all these dribs and drabs.”

If you do spot an onion at the store, Warriner said check the label to make sure it wasn’t grown in the U.S.

Salmonella outbreaks linked to onions are uncommon, said Warriner. He suspects improperly composted manure may be the cause of contamination, or the bacteria may have travelled through irrigation water.

While the recall applies to onions that have been imported since May, Warriner said it’s tough to tell when the outbreak began because onions have such a long shelf life.

For Canadians unsure what to do with their supply, Warriner said the watchword in food safety is “if in doubt, throw it out.”

“Nobody wants a bout of salmonella, not only because it can literally kill you, but because of secondary symptoms, which include arthritis, and it can make you more susceptible to other illnesses.”

In most cases, he said cooking kills salmonella. But there’s concern that the bacteria could be on the outside of the onion and spread to kitchen surfaces and other ingredients.

Warriner said it shouldn’t be too long until grocers restock their shelves with onions from other countries, such as Mexico, and growing season will soon get underway in Canada.

“The system is pretty robust,” he said. “I won’t be surprised if we see onions again in a week or two.”

Until then, the one-time chef suggests using alternatives such as leek and garlic to add some zest to your recipes.

“You can get dried onions,” he said. “But they’re not very nice.”

READ MORE: Health Canada recalling more than 50 hand sanitizers in evolving list

Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

FoodsalmonellaVegan and Vegetarian

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 27 to Oct. 3

World Farm Animals Day, Drink Beer Day and Virus Appreciation Day are all coming up this week

NDP candidate Babchuk a fixture in local politics since 2005

School trustee, city councillor and regional district chair sets sights on being North Island MLA

Sointula elementary school gets funding for new playground

Funding for the new playground comes from the provincial government’s Playground Equipment Program.

Facey nominated as BC Liberal candidate for the North Island riding

Liberal candidate Norm Facey has a background in forestry and manufacturing.

Some north Island forest service roads to get a minor facelift with COVID-19 recovery funding

Side Bay access road no longer ‘up in the bureaucratic air’ thanks to temporary budget increase

QUIZ: Do you know what’s on TV?

Fall is normally the time when new television shows are released

Canadian ski resorts wrestle with pandemic-vs.-profit dilemma as COVID-19 persists

Few are actually restricting the total number of skiers they allow on the hill

Victoria-area RCMP locate high-risk sex offender thanks to help of taxi cab driver

Scott Jones wanted on a Canada-wide warrant, ‘a risk to women and girls,’ police say

A (virtual) walk around the world by 88-year-old B.C. man

George Doi says it’s simple: ‘I like walking’

End of CERB means uncertainty for some, new system for others

As of a week ago, the CERB had paid out $79.3 billion to 8.8 million people

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Horgan, Wilkinson trade barbs over MSP premiums, health care at campaign stops

Horgan called a snap election for Oct. 24 earlier this week

Most Read