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

Two hurt in reported stabbing in Enderby

Police respond to reports of stabbing to find two men in similar condition near Canyon Road

Mandatory masks part of SilverStar’s winter plan

SilverStar starts season late to prepare for pandemic protocols

Vernon police catch porch pirate

A 45-year-old Vernon woman faces charges of theft under $5,000, possession of stolen property

Travel from Coldstream to Lake Country along Kal Crystal Waters trail

Completed extension on Kal Crystal Waters trail uses historic highway

Major UBCO bus changes from Vernon eliminate Oyama, include Kelowna

Oyama Isthmus loop removed, stop across from Kelowna airport added

Record-breaking 165 new COVID-19 cases diagnosed in B.C. in 24-hour period

Fifty-seven people are in hospital battling the novel coronavirus

Interior Health reports four new cases of COVID-19

First hospitalization since mid-August announced

Rail traffic starts moving after 60-car derailment near Hope

Clean up effort ongoing after 60 cars carrying potash crashed along a rail bridge

Spoon-wielding man draws police presence in Penticton

Police say no one was harmed during the incident

March to protect old growth, stop industrial logging coming to B.C. Legislature

Organizers say they want to give frontline communities a bigger say in nearby logging

B.C. releases details of $1.5B economic recovery plan, $660M in business tax incentives

Economic plan includes support for employers, as well as training for workers

‘Not criminally responsible’ hearing slated for man convicted of Abbotsford school stabbing

Gabriel Klein was found guilty in March of killing Letisha Reimer, 13, in 2016

Most Read