Onion Recall Issued After Salmonella Outbreak, CDC Says Not to Buy If Unsure of Origin
An investigation has begun after more than 650 people were infected with Salmonella from what health officials believe were contaminated onions.
On Wednesday, the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the beginning of an investigation of ProSource Inc. of Hailey, Idaho, due to potentially contaminated onions. The food safety alert revealed that the onions — which originated in Mexico, and were shipped to ProSource for distribution — were the source of a multi-state Salmonella outbreak.
The CDC revealed that there were 652 illnesses and 129 hospitalizations across 37 states from the outbreak after ProSource onions were shipped to restaurants and grocery stores. No deaths have yet been reported.
Though the report states the last shipment was Aug. 27, CDC health officials note that onions can last up to three months if properly stored.
"We are issuing this update early in our investigation as part of our continued commitment to transparency and early communication," the FDA stated in a release. "We will provide updates as we learn more during our continuing traceback investigation, especially if there are any updates to this critical public health advice."
ProSource Inc. agreed to a voluntary recall of all yellow, red, and white onions imported from Chihuahua, Mexico, between July 1 and Aug. 27 "out of an abundance of caution." The onions could be described at stores and restaurants as jumbo, colossal, medium, and sweet onions.
Though the recall was issued, the company shared in a statement that, "While investigations into various potential sources of Salmonella remain ongoing, to date no onions marketed through ProSource have tested positive for Salmonella."
Representatives for ProSource Inc. did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.
The CDC suggested people throw away any onions without a sticker or packaging, adding, "If you can't tell where the onions are from, don't buy or eat them." The organization said surfaces that might have been in contact with the onions should also be washed and sanitized.
"Onions that are clearly labeled or that you buy at a local farmer's market should be OK," James E. Rogers, PhD, director of food safety research and testing at Consumer Reports, said in a statement. "But don't consume any onion unless you are absolutely certain of its source."
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Most people infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps six hours to six days after being exposed to the bacteria, according to the CDC.
The illness typically lasts four to seven days, and most people recover without treatment. Children ages 5 or younger, adults 65 years and older, and people with weakened immune systems are more likely to have a severe illness.
Anyone who is infected is urged by health officials to contact their health care provider.
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A similar Salmonella outbreak occurred last year, reaching 43 U.S. states and Canada and infected 640 people. The FDA and CDC reported the infections in August 2020, linking the massive outbreak to Thomson International Inc. of Bakersfield, California, which recalled its red, white, yellow, and sweet onions.