Prof. Jeffrey Farber

With the Canadian Food Inspection Agency now expanding its recall of onions from the United States after being linked to more than 300 cases of salmonella illness in Canada, the University of Guelph has experts who can offer comment.

Prof. Jeffrey Farber is an adjunct professor of food microbiology in U of G’s Department of Food Science. He spoke to several CBC Radio stations on Tuesday and said that outbreaks of salmonella linked to onions are “unusual.” He said while the cause of this outbreak is still being investigated, salmonella can travel in contaminated irrigation water.

“One thing with salmonella is that you can have very low numbers of salmonella on the onions and you would still get disease… with some other bacterial diseases, you actually need large amounts of the organism to cause illness,” he said.

Prof. Keith Warriner

Prof. Keith Warriner  researches food safety, food microbiology and pathogens in the Department of Food Science. His team has helped create award-wining technologies to decontaminate produce using ultraviolet light and hydrogen peroxide. (The same technology is now being used to sanitize N95 masks for health-care workers.)

Warriner spoke to CBC News about this latest salmonella outbreak, which has been linked to a producer in California.

He noted that while cooking will kill salmonella,  it can be easy to cross-contaminate kitchen surfaces simply by cutting an affected onion on a cutting board and then placing other food items on that board.

They are available for interviews.


Prof. Jeff Farber

Prof. Keith Warriner

Watch Prof. Warriner speak to CBC News: