An Ontario outbreak of Salmonella Oranienberg, a rare form of Salmonella that causes acute intestinal infections in humans, may be linked to raw onions.
Dr. Arlene King, Ontario’s chief medical officer, warned Canadians about the outbreak on Saturday. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) then associated the outbreak with green onions. CFIA expanded its warning on Sunday.
Since late July, King said, a total of 25 cases of Salmonella Oranienberg have been identified in Ontario. In a typical month, Ontario sees three cases of Salmonella Oranienberg.
Twelve cases have an identical genetic fingerprint and results are pending for the remaining 13 cases. A large proportion of cases are young adult males in their 20s. Cases are clustered in the Greater Toronto Area.
King did not positively identify green onions as the source, but acknowledged CFIA’s action.
The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care is investigating the outbreak in conjunction with local health units, and the CFIA.
CFIA’s warning concerned green onions sold unwrapped with a rubber band. There is no lot code sticker, UPC, or product name on the individual bunch of onions.
The product was sold on July 30, 31, and August 1, 2010 from Highland Farms Supermarkets, at the following locations in Ontario:
• 4750 Dufferin Street, North York,
• 3300 Rutherford Road, Vaughan,
• 850 Ellesmere Road, Scarborough,
• 148 Bennett Road, Scarborough,
• 50 Matheson Boulevard, Mississauga.
CFIA said food contaminated with Salmonella may not look or smell spoiled. Consumption of food contaminated with these bacteria may cause salmonellosis, a foodborne illness.
In young children, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems, salmonellosis may cause serious and sometimes deadly infections. In otherwise healthy people, salmonellosis may cause short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, vomiting, nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. Long-term complications may include severe arthritis.
For more information, consumers and industry can call the CFIA at 1-800-442-2342 / TTY 1-800-465-7735 (8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern time, Monday to Friday).
King said the Salmonella outbreak should remind the public about the importance of properly handing and preparing food.