Onions Salmonella Outbreak Continues to Widen, Sickening 869 and Hospitalizing 116 Nationwide

Federal health officials are warning consumers to continue avoiding certain recalled onions, or food products that may contain the onions as part of the ingredients, as an ongoing salmonella food poisoning outbreak that has caused nearly 900 illness across 47 states.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its Food Safety Alert about the onions salmonella outbreak, indicating that an additional 229 illnesses have been reported since August 7, despite several recalls that removed impacted products from store shelves.

As of August 18, CDC officials have received a total of 869 Salmonella Newport infections across 47 states, resulting in 116 hospitalizations. Officials indicated additional illnesses are anticipated due to the two to four week average time it takes between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported.

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The CDC first became aware of the salmonella outbreak on July 24, after several clusters of illnesses were identified in about a dozen states. The agency, in conjunction with state and local officials, began epidemiologic and trace back investigations, which determined the likely source of the outbreak was red onions grown by Thomson International, Inc., of Bakersfield, California.

However, due to the fashion in which onions are harvested, other onion types such as white, yellow or sweet yellow onions may also have been contaminated during the growing and processing.

Thompson International issued an onion recall on August 1, 2020 following the CDC’s investigation’s discovery. The recall impacted red, white, yellow, sweet yellow onions sold under the brand names Thomson Premium, TLC Thomson International, Tender Loving Care, El Competitor, Hartleys Best, Onions 52, Majestic, Imperial Fresh, Kroger, Utah Onions, and Food Lion.

According to the FDA, the onions were distributed to wholesalers, restaurants, and retail stores in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Canada

Within the week following the Thompson International recall, several retailers including Food Lion, Trader Joe’s, Walmart, Publix Super Market, Kroger, Giant Eagle, and Ralph’s issued onion recalls that included individual onions or food products made with onions produced by Thompson International.

For healthy individuals, salmonella food poisoning 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.

Consumers, restaurants, and retailers are being instructed not to eat, serve, or sell recalled onions from Thomson International, Inc., or if the source of the onion is unknown.

Thomson International is already facing food poisoning lawsuits in connection with the outbreak, with the first known case filed in California Superior Court for San Diego County on August 3, by Keith Robert Willis, who suffered weakness, nausea, severe diarrhea and headaches after consuming Thompson’s red onions. The illness required Willis to be placed on antibiotics after testing positive for Salmonella Newport.


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