National recall: Salmonella and onions

On Saturday, August 1, media outlets reported a nationwide recall of Thomson red onions because of a Salmonella Newport outbreak. The red onions from Thomson International Inc. are the likely source of the outbreak, which has sickened more than 500 people in the U.S. and Canada, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Nearly 400 of the illness have been in the U.S.

On Monday, August 3, Thomson recalled all onions, regardless of color, from all 50 states.

According to the recall notice: “Consumers, restaurants, and retailers should not eat, sell, or serve red, white, yellow, or sweet onions from Thomson International, Inc. or products containing such onions. If you cannot tell if your onion is from Thomson International Inc., or your food product contains such onions, you should not eat, sell, or serve it, and should throw it out.” Thomson, of Bakersfield, CA, told theFDA that the onions were shipped beginning May 1 through the present. Onions were supplied pre-packaged and also sold by stores for consumers to pick as many as they desired.  To date, there have been 5 cases of illness in Wisconsin linked to this outbreak.

Advice to Consumers, Restaurants, and Retailers from the CDC about this Outbreak

Do not eat, serve, or sell any onions from Thomson International Inc. or products made with these onions. Onion types include red, white, yellow, and sweet varieties.

  • At home, check your refrigerator and kitchen for any of these onions or fresh foods made with them.
    • Check the package or look for a sticker on an onion to see if it is from Thomson International, Inc. If it is, don’t eat it. Throw it away.
    • If you can’t tell where your onions are from, don’t eat them. Throw them away.
    • If you made any foods with onions and you don’t know where they are from, do not eat them. Throw them away, even if no one got sick.
    • Wash and sanitize any surfaces that may have come in contact with onions or their packaging, such as countertops, refrigerator drawers, knives, and cutting boards.
  • When you eat out or shop for food, check with restaurants and grocery stores to make sure they are not serving or selling onions from Thomson International Inc., or fresh foods prepared with them.
    • If they don’t know where their onions are from, don’t buy the product.
    • People sickened in this outbreak reported eating raw onions in freshly prepared foods, including salads, sandwiches, wraps, salsas, and dips.

Advice to Restaurants, Retailers, and Suppliers

  • Restaurants and retailers should not serve or sell any onions from Thomson International, Inc., or food prepared with these onions.
    • If you don’t know where your onions are from, don’t serve or sell them.
    • Clean and sanitize all surfaces that onions have come in contact with, including cutting boards, countertops, slicers, utensils, and storage bins.
  • Suppliers, distributors, and others in the supply chain should not ship or sell any onions from Thomson International, Inc.
    • Suppliers and distributors that repackage raw onions should clean and sanitize any surfaces and storage bins that may have come in contact with recalled onions.

Take these steps if you have symptoms of a Salmonella infection:

  • Talk to your healthcare provider.
  • Write down what you ate in the week before you started to get sick.
  • Report your illness to your local health department.
    • The health department will likely call you for an interview to ask you about foods you ate in the week before you got sick.
  • Assist public health investigators by answering their questions when they contact you.
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