Health

Salmonella outbreak linked to sausages sickens 12 in Ontario and Quebec

An outbreak of salmonella illness that sickened a dozen people in Ontario and Quebec has been linked to a brand of sausage, federal health officials say.

Various ready-to-eat dry sausage products that tested positive for salmonella recalled

Various ready-to-eat dried sausages have been recalled from the marketplace due to possible salmonella contamination, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency says. (Shutterstock)

A brand of Italian sausage is linked to an outbreak of salmonella infections in Ontario and Quebec, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).

"Based on the investigation findings to date, exposure to Filicetti brand Italian Style mild, dry, cured sausage has been identified as a source of the outbreak," PHAC said in a statement.

As of Wednesday, 12 confirmed cases of the salmonella Litchfield illness have been reported: 10 in Ontario and two in Quebec. The people became sick between May and September. One individual was hospitalized.

Earlier this month, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency issued a food recall for various ready-to-eat dry sausage products that tested positive for salmonella including Filicetti Italian Style mild, dry, cured sausage. Since then, more affected products have been added to the recall.

The Filicetti brand was distributed in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec.

Another brand was recalled — Venetian products distributed in Ontario and Alberta.

"The two recalls were related to different strains of salmonella," a CFIA spokesperson said in an email, however. "The Venetian Meats recall was not associated to any reported illnesses."

Canadians are advised not to eat the affected food.

Infants, children and seniors are most at risk of becoming sick with salmonella illness, along with those who have compromised immune systems.

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

'System has broken down'

Keith Warriner, a professor in food safety at the University of Guelph, said it is unusual for salmonella to get into fermented meat products in the first place. That's because fermenting meat introduces a "lot of hurdles" to prevent the growth of bacteria, such as acidity and dryness. 

"When you get a salmonella outbreak of this nature, it tells you the system has broken down somewhere," Warriner said. 

Federal health officials said it is possible that the number affected by this outbreak could be higher because there can be a delay from the time a person becomes ill to the time the illness is reported to public health officials. For this outbreak, the illness reporting period is between four to five weeks.

People may also carry the bacteria and not get sick or show any symptoms but spread the bacteria to others.

Health officials also advise:

  • Check to see if you have any recalled ready-to-eat dry cured sausage products in your home. If you do, do not eat them.
  • Throw recalled products out immediately and properly wash and sanitize any containers that were used to store these products before using them again.
  • If you have any ready-to-eat dry cured sausage products without the original packaging and are unsure if these products are included in this advice, throw them out just to be safe.
  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds immediately following contact with any of the recalled products.
  • Do not prepare food for other people if you think you are sick with a salmonella infection or suffering from any other contagious illness causing diarrhea.

Warriner said salmonella is the top cause of food-borne bacterial illness in Canada, but salmonella Litchfield is a rare type not commonly seen in this country. 

The introduction of whole genome sequencing in the last two years has allowed scientists to rapidly identify types of salmonella and to link cases to each other.  

The outbreak shows the surveillance system is working on the detection front, Warriner said.

Clarifications

  • An earlier version of this story reported that the recalled Venetian brand products were distributed in Ontario and Alberta. While that's true, they carried a different strain of salmonella from the Filicetti products and in fact caused no illnesses.
    Oct 28, 2019 3:48 PM ET

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