OCT 21, 2021 7:46 AM PDT

Ongoing Salmonella Outbreak Traced to Onions

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

On October 20, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that an outbreak of Salmonella food poisoning or salmonellosis had been traced back to red, white, and yellow onions that were produced in Chihuahua, Mexico and distributed to stores and restaurants around the United States by ProSource Inc. The contaminated onions have been linked to illnesses and hospitalizations in 37 states.

A medical illustration of drug-resistant, nontyphoidal, Salmonella sp. bacteria / Credit: CDC/ Antibiotic Resistance Coordination and Strategy Unit / Medical Illustrator: James Archer

Onions can last three months in storage, so while the last contaminated onions were thought to have been imported on or before August 27, 2021, according to ProSource, Inc., some may still be in use. The CDC is still investigating whether onions from other distributors are involved in this outbreak.

Businesses are being encouraged to check their supplies, and consumers are being advised to check for stickers on their onions, and dispose of any onions that may have come from Chihuahua and ProSource, or those that are not marked. If any surfaces have come into contact with onions like these, they should be cleaned with soap and hot water.

When Salmonella bacteria contaminates uncooked food, and the food is consumed, it usually causes a mild illness within six hours to six days after consumption. People typically get over their illness, which can include stomach cramps, fever, and diarrhea, within a few days to a week. However, young children, older adults, or people that are immunocompromised may have more serious symptoms. Those could include severe vomiting, dehydration, or a fever above 102ºF.

As of today, this Salmonella outbreak has been linked to 652 confirmed cases of illness, and 129 hospitalizations, 13 of which are newly reported. There have not been any fatalities. Of the Salmonella patients that were questioned about what they may have been eaten, 75 percent reported consuming raw onions before they got sick.

As is typical in these kinds of outbreaks, the CDC has suggested that the actual number of people who have been sickened is much higher because most people that get this kind of food poisoning don't see a doctor and are never officially tested. Some more recent illnesses may have also not been counted; it can take several weeks for a patient's case to be confirmed as part of an outbreak.

The CDC also noted that none of the cases in this outbreak have been resistant to antibiotics.

Source: CDC

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
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