Prof. Keith Warriner in a lab coat
Prof. Keith Warriner

With a recall of yellow onions due to possible salmonella contamination affecting consumers in more parts of Canada, a University of Guelph food safety researcher says the recall could expand even further.

Dr. Keith Warriner researches food microbiology and food safety with U of G’s Department of Food Science in the Ontario Agricultural College. He said salmonella often finds its way into farmers’ fields through contaminated water and soil.

“The thing with salmonella is that it is a very robust pathogen. It can survive in the soil and it survives in water for extended periods of time,” Warriner recently told Yahoo Canada News. “Once it gets into the environment. it literally can find its way to a wide variety of foods.”

Warriner noted that while cooking can destroy salmonella, onions are often eaten raw in salads, fresh salsas and more.

There have been no illnesses associated with contaminated onions in Canada, although there have been reports of illnesses in the U.S.

Outbreaks such as this one can extend for months as there are often delays in tracing the potentially contaminated food, he added.

Warriner studies food safety in the meat processing and fresh produce sectors. His team has developed several techniques and devices to detect food-borne hazards. Technology that he developed to decontaminate fresh produce is also being used to sanitize N95 masks for health-care workers battling the COVID-19 pandemic.

He is available for interviews.


Dr. Keith Warriner