114 Canadians sickened by Salmonella outbreak linked to red onions

Jul 31 2020, 9:01 am

A Public Health Notice has been issued regarding an outbreak of Salmonella infections linked to red onions imported from the US.

Health authorities are warning people in BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario to not eat any raw red onions imported from US retailers.

In total as of July 30, 2020, 114 Canadians have become sick from this Salmonella outbreak. An additional 55 illnesses have been reported since July 24.

The affected individuals live in the following provinces: British Columbia (43), Alberta (55), Manitoba (13), Ontario (2), and Prince Edward Island (1).

The notice stated that the individual from Prince Edward Island reported travelling to Alberta before becoming ill and that Saskatchewan has not reported any confirmed illnesses related to this outbreak, but provincial public health authorities are investigating some Salmonella illnesses in the province.

Those who became ill reported eating red onions in restaurants, residential care settings, and at home. Individuals became sick between mid-June and mid-July 2020. There have been 16 hospitalizations linked to this outbreak and no deaths.

Restaurants and retailers are also being advised not to use, sell, or serve red onions imported from the US.

Please note that red onions grown in Canada are not affected by this advice.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is conducting a food safety investigation, as more information is needed to determine the cause of contamination in red onions imported from the US.

Symptoms of a Salmonella infection typically start six to 72 hours after exposure to a contaminated product, and can include fever, chills, diarrhea, cramps, vomiting and nausea.

Most people who become ill from an infection will fully recover in a few days, according to health officials, although individuals can be infectious for up to several weeks.

Infants, children, seniors and people with weakened immune systems are most at risk for serious illnesses related to Salmonella infections.

It is difficult to know if a product is contaminated with Salmonella because you can’t see, smell or taste it.

To lessen the risk of Salmonella, the following food safety tips are offered by public health officials:

  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling fresh produce.
  • Cut away any bruised or damaged areas on fresh produce, since harmful bacteria can thrive in these areas.
  • Wash fresh produce thoroughly under fresh, cool, running water, even if you plan to peel them.
  • Don’t soak fresh produce in a sink full of water.
  • Use a clean produce brush to scrub items that have firm surfaces like cucumbers, oranges, melons, potatoes, carrots.
  • Use one cutting board for produce, and a separate one for raw meat, poultry, fish and seafood.
  • Place peeled or cut fruits and vegetables on a separate clean plate.
  • Use paper towels to wipe kitchen surfaces, or change dishcloths daily.
  • Sanitize countertops, cutting boards and utensils before and after preparing food.
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