Province investigating as dozens fall ill in Winnipeg after eating imported spot prawns

More than two dozen people have fallen ill with food poisoning after eating imported spot prawns purchased live in Winnipeg, prompting a provincial investigation.

A provincial spokesperson confirms the people became ill after eating prawns that were pre-ordered by the customers and transported by air live on ice to a store in Winnipeg.

“This establishment imported live spot prawns from B.C. and sold it live to customers,” the spokesperson wrote in a statement. 

“This type of seafood should really be cooked before consuming it. This is not sushi or sashimi-grade seafood, which can be consumed raw.”

Spot prawns — a large species of shrimp harvested off the coast of B.C. at certain times of year — are known for their bright colour and sweet taste. 

As of Thursday, the province had received 25 reports of food poisoning, with people reporting diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and chills after consuming the crustaceans. Officials are not aware of any hospitalizations, the spokesperson added.

The province noted that because the supplier of the spot prawns is located in British Columbia, their inter-provincial distribution falls under the jurisdiction of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

A 2021 file photo shows a fisherman holding prawns. Spot prawns sold in Manitoba are typically shipped live on ice from British Columbia. (CBC News )

Public health inspectors are working with the agency, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and Manitoba Public Health on the outbreak, according to the spokesperson. 

CBC News has asked for information on the specific bacteria or virus that caused the illnesses but has not yet had a response.

Sold by Pembina Highway grocery store

At least some of the spot prawns were purchased from Daily Food Oriental Supermarket on Pembina Highway in Winnipeg, though it is unclear whether the reports are limited to prawns sold there. 

CBC News contacted the store by phone for comment Friday.

The store’s manager relayed through a clerk that the case had been handed over to Manitoba Public Health and the food inspection agency, and the store had no comment “until the authorities give an answer to the public.” 

The inspection agency confirmed in a statement that it is aware of the reports and has been in contact with Manitoba Public Health, which is currently investigating and collecting samples.

“It is possible that the issue will be officially referred to CFIA pending the investigation by Manitoba Public Health,” a spokesperson wrote in a statement.

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