Salmonella cases linked to imported U.S. onions rise to 457

TORONTO — The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is urging consumers to be cautious about buying onions after more than 70 new cases of salmonella infections linked to imported onions from the United States were reported, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 457.

Since Aug. 21, there have been 78 additional cases reported to PHAC. One person has died, but officials say it is not known if salmonella contributed to the cause of death.

Sixty-six people have been hospitalized since the beginning of the outbreak.

A public health notice about the outbreak was first issued on Jul. 30. There is no evidence to suggest that onions grown in Canada are associated with this outbreak. Onions from Thomson International Inc. of Bakersfield, Calif., are specifically named in the notice; however, PHAC notes generally that onions imported from the U.S. are under investigation.

Canadians are being urged not to eat, use, sell or serve any red, white, yellow, and sweet yellow onions, or any products made with these onions, noting that “if you are unsure where a red/yellow/white/ sweet yellow onion was grown, do not eat it.”

Salmonella infections can set in between six and 72 hours after exposure to the bacteria. Symptoms include fever, chills, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, headache, nausea, and vomiting.

Healthy people usually recover within a week. However, children under the age of six, pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems are at a higher risk of serious illness. In some cases, an infection can last for several weeks and require hospitalization.

Some do not show symptoms of salmonella infection, but can spread the illness to others.

The outbreak has led to cases in provinces from coast to coast:

  • British Columbia (107)
  • Alberta (257)
  • Saskatchewan (33)
  • Manitoba (25)
  • Ontario (11)
  • Quebec (23)
  • Prince Edward Island (1)

To protect yourself, check the label to ensure onions are not from Thomson International Inc. If the product does not have a label, do not eat it.

Public Health also urges Canadians to wash any surfaces that may have come into contact with the onions or their packaging.​

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