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

Four exhibits on display at Penticton Art Gallery

Indigenous art and art inspired by the pandemic are on display until Nov. 7

Two new COVID-19 cases announced in Interior Health region

The total number of cases in the region is at 533

Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen compost project receives recognition

Federation of Canadian Municipalities names regional district for environmental leadership

More wildfire smoke to fill the Okanagan

The smoke is coming from wildfires in California but is expected to be much lighter

B.C. counts 125 new COVID-19 cases, up to 1,284 active

No new deaths or health care facility outbreaks

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Lessons from a pandemic: How to design a nursing home that’s safe and love-filled

A look at how one care home is battling the pandemic with the social needs of the elderly in their care

Winter tires, chains now mandatory along most B.C. highways

Drivers without the proper winter tires – which must also be in good condition – can be fined $109

Documentary to celebrate the Shuswap’s music scene

Local initiative to feature several of the region’s artists

Guns seized in relation to southeast Kelowna murder investigation

RCMP seized several firearms from a West Kelowna home on Tuesday

Health Canada green-lights rapid COVID-19 test

Health Canada approved the BCube test from Hyris Ltd. in the United Kingdom Sept. 23

First Nations Health Authority chief medical officer concerned with rising COVID-19 cases

“There’s still so much we don’t know and we’re learning everyday about this particular virus.”

FINLAYSON: COVID-related job losses concentrated in urban areas… especially Metro Vancouver

The biggest job losses, in absolute terms, have been in Metro Vancouver

Most Read