Is it safe to eat at restaurants? What to know about Canada’s onion recall

Onion recall linked to salmonella outbreak expanded
ABOVE: Onion recall linked to salmonella outbreak expanded.

U.S. grown onions continue to be pulled off Canadian grocery shelves stores over concerns of salmonella illnesses.

More than 230 Canadians have fallen ill with salmonella and another 29 have been hospitalized, prompting the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to recall a variety of onions shipped from Thomson International Inc. of Bakersfield, Calif.

READ MORE: Canadians may see onion shortage due to expanded recall, expert says

Here is what we know about the recall so far.

What is the latest on the onion recall?

On Wednesday, the CFIA expanded its recall to include Krown Produce’s, a produce supplier in Western Canada. The agency said the supplier’s red and yellow onions are grown by Thomson International and could have possible salmonella contamination.

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The onions may have been sold online or at various restaurants, the CFIA warned. They also could have been sold in bulk or in smaller packages with or without a label.

Foods pregnant women should eat and avoid
Foods pregnant women should eat and avoid

The agency said the onions may have been distributed to Alberta, British Columbia, Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Saskatchewan.

For a detailed list of the latest recall click here.

When did the recall start?

Wednesday’s recall is one of the numerous warnings the CFIA released in connection to the onions.

The initial recall started on July 30, but was only for red onions linked to Thomson International.

READ MORE: Avoid all onions with unclear origins amid growing salmonella outbreak, health officials say

On Aug. 1, the CFIA expanded its recall to include red, yellow, white and sweet yellow onions distributed by the California company.

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The following week, the government expanded its recall to include these brands:

On Aug. 7, the CFIA once again widened the recall to include products made with onions by Thomson International, such as salsa, chicken quesadillas, greek pasta salad and sandwiches. For a full list of the products, click here.

How many Canadians have fallen ill?

As of Aug. 7, there have been 239 confirmed cases in Canada of salmonella illness linked to this outbreak, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).

The cases have occurred across the country, but most notably in the west: British Columbia (67), Alberta (149), Saskatchewan (5), Manitoba (13), Ontario (3), Quebec (1) and Prince Edward Island (1).

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PHAC said individuals became sick between mid-June and late July 2020. While 29 individuals have been hospitalized, no deaths have been reported.

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Individuals who became ill reported eating onions at home, in menu items ordered at restaurants and in residential care settings.

Should I eat any onions?

Canadians should avoid eating raw onions that are from the U.S., says Keith Warriner, a food science professor at University of Guelph.

And if you are not sure where a red, yellow, white, or sweet yellow onion was grown, do not eat it, he added.

What if onions are cooked?

Cooking an onion will kill the salmonella bacteria, Warriner said. The real risk is that the bacteria could be on the outside of the onion, which could spread to kitchen surfaces and other ingredients when it’s chopped, he added.

What about eating an onion at a restaurant?

If you order a salad or any other food containing onions at a restaurant ask the staff if they know whether the onions came from Thomson Internation, the CFIA told Global News.

If the staff does not know, don’t eat it, the CFIA said.

Foods to avoid when eating out so you don’t get sick!
Foods to avoid when eating out so you don’t get sick!

Similar cases in the U.S.?

In the U.S., 640 people across 43 states have fallen ill with salmonella so far, according to the CDC. No deaths have been reported, but 85 people have been hospitalized.

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Illnesses first started being reported around June 19, the CDC added.

Who is most at risk from salmonella?

Anyone can become sick with salmonella, but children aged five years and under, older adults, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk for developing serious illness, PHAC said.

Most people who become ill with the infection will recover fully after a few days, according to PHAC, adding that it is possible for some people to be infected with the bacteria and to not get sick or show any symptoms, but to still be able to spread the infection to others.

Read more: 5 things a Canadian food safety expert will never eat

Symptoms can include fever, chills, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, headache, nausea and vomiting.

Frequent handwashing, especially after touching raw meat and produce, as well as cooking food to proper temperatures can help limit the risk of infection.