Federal health officials indicate onions are the cause of an ongoing multi-state salmonella food poisoning outbreak, which has caused hundreds of illnesses nationwide.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a Thompson International onions recall on August 1, after determining red, yellow, white and sweet onions produced and distributed by the company may tainted with Salmonella Newport bacteria, which has already been linked to nearly 400 reports of illnesses in at least 15 states.
The salmonella outbreak was first reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on July 24, after several clusters of illnesses were identified in about a dozen states. However, within days the size and scope of the food poisoning outbreak has rapidly grown, with at least 396 illnesses new reported across at least 34 states, including 59 cases serious enough to require hospitalization.
The agencies began performing epidemiologic and trace-back investigations with state and local officials to identify the source of the outbreak, and believe that red onions produced by Thomson International, Inc. of Bakersfield, California are the likely source. However, out of an abundance of caution the producer is recalling all red, yellow, white, and sweet yellow onions shipped from May 1, 2020 through the present.
The onions were packaged in cartons and mesh sacks and were sold in a variety of sizes under the brand names Thomson Premium, TLC Thomson International, Tender Loving Care, El Competitor, Hartley’s Best, Onions 52, Majestic, Imperial Fresh, Kroger, Utah Onions and Food Lion.
The FDA announced the onions were distributed to wholesalers, restaurants, and retail stores in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Canada.
Customers, restaurants and retailer are being instructed to stop serving impacted Thompson International Inc. onions immediately. If the origins of the onion products are unknown, the FDA is advising customers not to eat them and discard them.
For healthy individuals, salmonella symptoms typically include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain lasting between four and seven days. The illness can become worse due to the delay in treatment because the infection can only be diagnosed by testing stool samples and is usually treated with antibiotics.
Among individuals with a weakened immune system, such as the elderly, children or pregnant women, the illness can pose a much greater risk and may lead to death or still birth if left untreated. In rare circumstances, the infection can even spread throughout the blood stream and cause arterial infections, endocarditis and arthritis.
Customers who have purchased onions from Thompson International Inc. may contact the company by calling Kim Earnshaw at 661-845-1111. Customers who have consumed onion products and are showing symptoms of salmonella poisoning are being encouraged to contact your healthcare provider immediately and notify your local health department.