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Salmonella Food Poisoning Lawsuit Filed Over Onions Recall That Has Sickened Hundreds Nationwide

A salmonella food poisoning lawsuit has been filed in connection with an emerging outbreak linked to raw onions distributed nationwide, which were allegedly unfit for human consumption and have caused hundreds illnesses nationwide.

The complaint (PDF) was filed by Keith Robert Willis in California Superior Court for San Diego County on August 3, naming Thomson International Incorporated as the defendant.

The case was filed the same day the FDA announced a Thompson International onions recall, after nearly 400 cases of Salmonella Newport food poisoning were identified in 34 different states.

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

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.

According to the lawsuit, Willis purchased Thompson’s red onions in June, and fell ill on July 1, suffering weakness, nausea, severe diarrhea and headaches. Willis tested positive for Salmonella Newport and was placed on antibiotics. The lawsuit indicates he is still currently suffering from the food poisoning.

The San Diego Department of Health contacted Willis to confirm his illness was linked to the recalled onions, the lawsuit notes.

“The Defendant owed a duty of care to the Plaintiff to manufacture, supply, package, distribute and/or sell food that was not adulterated, that was fit for human consumption, that was reasonably safe in construction, and that was free of pathogenic bacteria or other substances injurious to human health,” the lawsuit states. “The Defendant breached this duty.”

Willis presents claims of strict product liability, breach of implied warranty, negligence and negligence per se.

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, 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.

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.

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