Posted on Aug 06, 2020, 2 p.m.
Initially only applied to red onions, the FDA recall has been expanded to include white, yellow, and sweet onions as well. It may be best to check your fridge to make sure that any onions you have are not part of a large recall issued by the FDA over concerns of salmonella contamination.
The agency announced a voluntary recall on August 1, 2020 that includes red, yellow, white, and sweet onions that are distributed by Thomson International Inc., of Bakersfield California from May 1, 2020 to the present date in both Canada and America.
Retail stores, restaurants, and wholesalers received the onions in question within cartons and sacks under various brand names which includes Thomson Premium, TLC Thomson International, Tender Loving Care, EI Competitor, Hartley’s Best, Onion 52, Majestic, Imperial Fresh, Kroger, Utah Onions, and Food Lion.
Should you have any onions in your home from one of those names, or if you are unsure the FDA is advising against using them and recommends that you throw them into the trash, along with washing and sanitizing any surfaces that may have come into contact with the onion or their packaging such as refrigerator drawers, countertops, knives, and cutting boards, according to the CDC.
“If anyone has questions, they should certainly contact the source where they purchased their onions or the local health department, as they usually have updates on the recall,” suggests Jeff Nelken, a food safety expert in Woodland Hills, California.
In addition to checking what you have in your home the CDC also recommends that you check where the onions are coming from in any premade foods that your purchase before consuming them such as those in salads, sandwiches, wraps, toppings on burgers or in onion rings that are made by food trucks, fast food shops, delis, restaurants and grocery stores.
Some of the individuals who have become sick in this outbreak have reported eating freshly prepared foods. 396 people are reported to have become ill as of August 3, 2020, this includes 59 hospitalizations across 34 states according to the CDC. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada there are 120 confirmed cases in Canada.
“This is already the largest food poisoning outbreak of 2020,” says Jory D. Lange Jr., a national food safety lawyer and food safety expert in Houston, who predicts it’s likely to continue to grow.
Lange and his team started to receive calls mid July regarding onions and salmonella; and they have received over 50 calls from people across Canada and America who are worried about their onions; according to Lange, of those people over a dozen were sick. In Portland, Oregon Lange and consumer protection attorney David Sugarman have filed the first federal lawsuit in American on the salmonella onion outbreak.
Symptoms of salmonella infection will typically include but is not limited to diarrhea which may or may not be bloody, fever, and stomach cramps within 6 hours to 6 days of infection. Additionally symptoms can also include nausea, vomiting and headache that can last about 4-7 days. The majority of people can recover from salmonella infection without any antibiotics, but those with severe illness are recommended to seek treatment, as are those with a compromised immune system, those with medical problems, children younger than 12 years of age, and adults over the age of 65. Anyone who is experiencing symptoms of exposure to salmonella that fits within any of the high risk categories is encouraged to contact medical assistance.
This recall was initially just for the red onions, then it was expanded to include other types of onions because the other onions travel along the same packaging lines. But as of now, according to Benjamin Chapman, PhD who is a professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, the red onions are the ones being investigated the most.
Dr. Chapman suspects that the contamination started in the production process and onion fields and was carried on to be made worse during packaging where the onions are packaged in dry environments where salmonella and other pathogens can persist.
“It’s a unique outbreak because red onions are not a food we have seen associated with salmonella in the past,” says Chapman. “I’m aware of other types of onions contaminated at restaurants in the past, but not red ones.”
From the FDA Recall statement:
Thomson International Inc. of Bakersfield, California is recalling Red, Yellow, White, and Sweet Yellow Onions shipped from May 1, 2020 through the present. The onions are being recalled because they have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella. Onions were distributed to wholesalers, restaurants, and retail stores in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Canada.
The onions were distributed in 5 lbs. carton. 10 lbs. carton. 25 lbs. carton. 40 lbs. carton, 50 lbs. carton. bulk, 2 lb. mesh sacks, and 3 lb. mesh sacks, 5 lb. mesh sacks, 10 lb. mesh sacks 25 lbs. mesh sacks, 50 lbs. mesh sacks 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.
Consumers who have any Red, Yellow, White, and Sweet Yellow Onions under the above brand names, or who cannot tell if their onions are from Thomson International, should immediately discard these products and disinfect any surfaces that came into contact with the onions. Consumers with questions may contact the company by calling Kim Earnshaw at 661-845-1111.
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