Great, US Red Onions May Have Caused a Salmonella Outbreak in Canada

Public health officials are warning Canadians to throw away dangerous red onions that were shipped north from the United States.

On Friday, Public Health Agency of Canada issued a warning instructing Canadians to “not eat any red onions imported to Canada from the U.S., including any food products that contain raw red onions imported from the U.S.”

The warning states the onions may have infected over 100 Canadians with salmonella, an unpleasant bacterial infection that causes fever, chills, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, and vomiting.

“Individuals became sick between mid-June and mid-July 2020,” said the release. “Out of 102 people, 16 individuals have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.”

The public health agency said the people who became ill ranged between 3 and 100 years old and reported eating red onions at home, in restaurant menu items, or in care homes.

The majority of the incidents occurred in western Canada—43 in British Columbia and 55 in Alberta. Thirteen people in Manitoba and two in Ontario were also exposed. One person from PEI was affected but they had travelled to Alberta and it’s believed they had caught the illness there.

To protect yourself from the bad onions, the government is asking you to check the stickers on them; if they’re from the U.S. you should throw them out, and anything they may have touched, right away, and clean the surrounding area of any onion residue. If it’s unclear where they’re from, you should dispose of them too, said the agency.

Restaurants and retailers are also advised not to use, sell, or serve red onions from the U.S.

“Red onions harvested in Canada are not affected by this advice,” the warning says.

A similar outbreak in the U.S. had led to 200 infections and 31 hospitalizations, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC and Public Health Agency of Canada are collaborating to find out where the faulty onions came from.

If you get salmonella it will most likely manifest within 6 to 72 hours and symptoms can last up to a week. Some cases may require hospitalization and in extreme cases, salmonella can cause death.

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