Health authorities warn onions tainted with salmonella are making people sick in Utah

ST. GEORGE — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control said there may be onions tainted with salmonella in your fridge or at the nearest restaurant. 

File photo of hands in work gloves holding a freshly plucked red onion in an undisclosed location. | Photo by Irina Antonova, iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

Authorities in the United States and Canada have identified an onion supplier in California as the likely source of a salmonella outbreak that has sickened hundreds of people nationwide over the last several weeks, with the second-largest concentration of illnesses being found in Utah. 

The CDC said as of Friday, 61 people in Utah have become ill because of the onions that are subject to recall.

The onions, grown by Bakersfield, California-based Thomson International, Inc., were distributed to restaurants and wholesalers, as well as retail stores in Utah in mesh sacks and cartoons under the Utah Onions brand name, among others.

The CDC bulletin said the red onions are the main source of salmonella, but those onions were also mixed with the white, yellow, or sweet onions necessitating the recall of all of those varieties.

The CDC advises that if a household or restaurant has any onions to check if they have a sticker or marker identifying them as coming from Thomson. If they do, or the onion doesn’t have identification as to where it came from, people are advised to not eat or cook the onions and throw them away.

The CDC also advises to 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.

Onions were distributed to wholesalers, restaurants and retail stores across the country and in Canada, Thomson said. Besides Utah Onions, they were also distributed in mesh sacks and cartons under the names TII Premium, El Competitor, Hartley, Onions 52, Imperial Fresh and Food Lion.

A nationwide map of the concentration of those who have gotten ill from onions distributed from Thomson Industries Inc. Click to enlarge. | Photo courtesy of Centers for Disease Control, St. George News

According to the FDA, approximately 400 people have been sickened in the United States, including 59 requiring hospitalization. Ahead of Utah, Oregon tops the list with 71. No deaths have been reported.

People sickened in this outbreak reported eating raw onions in freshly prepared foods, including salads, sandwiches, wraps, salsas and dips, the CDC said.

Consumers who have symptoms of salmonella infection should contact their health care provider. Most people with salmonellosis develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. More severe cases of salmonellosis may include a high fever, aches, headaches, lethargy, a rash, blood in the urine or stool, and in some cases may become fatal.

More detailed recall information will be made public as soon as it is available from the company, the FDA statement added. 

To read the FDA’s full statement, click here.

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