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

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

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin makes preparations at Toronto’s mass vaccination clinic, Jan. 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
3 deaths, 234 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health over the weekend

One death connected to outbreak at Kamloops’ Royal Inland Hospital, where 20 patients and 28 staff have tested positive

The trial of Harry Richardson began Monday at the Nelson courthouse. File photo
Trial of man accused of shooting RCMP officer near Argenta in 2019 begins

Harry Richardson is facing five charges in a Nelson courtroom

Gerald Cordeiro of Kalesnikoff Lumber Ltd. says the company is looking for a non-profit organization to take over and run its proposed agroforestry project. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
Logging company proposes agroforestry project for Nelson area

Kalesnikoff Lumber is floating the idea of growing trees in conjunction with food crops

Zaudanawng “Jay-Dan” Maran in his Creston home. Hanging on the wall behind him is a logo of Kachin’s Manaw festival. Photo: Aaron Hemens
From Myanmar to Creston: The story of a refugee

In October 2007, Zaudanawng “Jay-Dan” Maran and his friends encountered a woman being sexually assaulted by two Myanmar soldiers.

Crews with Discovery Channel film as an Aggressive Towing driver moves a Grumman S2F Tracker aircraft around a 90-degree turn from its compound and onto the road on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. It was the “most difficult” part of the move for the airplane, one organizer said. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Vintage military plane gets towed from Chilliwack to Greater Victoria

Grumman CP-121 Tracker’s eventual home the British Columbia Aviation Museum on Vancouver Island

Kamloops This Week.
48 COVID-19 cases and one death associated with outbreak at Kamloops hospital

One of the 20 patients infected has died, meanwhile 28 staff with COVID-19 are isolating at home

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Rolling seven-day average of cases by B.C. health authority to Jan. 21. Fraser Health in purple, Vancouver Coastal red, Interior Health orange, Northern Health green and Vancouver Island blue. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
2nd COVID vaccine doses on hold as B.C. delivery delayed again

New COVID-19 cases slowing in Fraser Health region

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. Two more cases of the COVID-19 strain first identified in South Africa have been diagnosed in British Columbia, bringing the total to three as of Jan. 16.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. now has three cases of South African COVID-19 variant, six of U.K. strain

Both variants are thought to spread faster than earlier strains

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker in an undated photo from social media. The couple has been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
Great Canadian Gaming CEO resigns after being accused of sneaking into Yukon for vaccine

Rod Baker and Ekaterina Baker were charged with two CEMA violations each

Police discovered a makeshift nightclub in a Vancouver apartment on Jan. 23, 2021, and say it wasn’t the first time this month officers have been called to the unit over social gathering concerns. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Doorman of makeshift ‘booze-can’ in Vancouver apartment fined; police look to court order

This marks the fourth complaint about social gatherings inside the apartment in January

A Kelowna couple welcomed their Nooner baby in December. (Flytographer)
Kelowna couple welcomes baby girl from Hotel Zed Nooner campaign

Nicole and Alex will now have 18 years of free stays at the hotel

Kyrell Sopotyk was drafted by the Kamloops Blazers in 2016 and played two seasons with the Western Hockey League club. (Photograph By ALLEN DOUGLAS/KTW)
Kamloops Blazer paralyzed in snowboarding accident sparks fundraiser for family

As of Jan. 24, more than $68,000 had been raised to help Kamloops Blazers’ forward Kyrell Sopotyk

Most Read