FDA, CDC say Thomson onions behind mysterious Salmonella outbreak

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Federal officials in the U.S. say a California company will be recalling red onions because a Salmonella Newport outbreak has been traced to them, but as of Friday night that recall was not posted.

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 Canadian officials and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Earlier Friday, Canadian officials announced a recall by Sysco of its red onions because traceback work in that country showed them to be related to the outbreak there. Neither U.S. nor Canadian officials referenced the company named by the other country.

Since the previous updates, on July 24, from the FDA and CDC, 184 more people have been added to the patient count. That brings the U.S. total to 396 sick people across 34 states. It can take up to four weeks for patients to be added to the CDC’s official count.

As of Friday, only red onions have been linked to the multinational outbreak, but U.S. officials say consumers should error on the side of caution when it comes to onion consumption right now.

“Thomson International Inc. has notified FDA that it will be recalling all varieties of onions that could have come in contact with potentially contaminated red onions, due to the risk of cross-contamination,” according to the FDA update. “This recall would include red, white, yellow, and sweet onions from Thomson International Inc. Recall information will be made public as soon as it is available from Thomson International Inc.”

In the U.S., illnesses started on dates ranging from June 19, 2020, to July 12, 2020. Ill people range in age from less than 1 to 102 years old, with a median age of 39. Of 236 ill people with information available, 59 hospitalizations have been reported. No deaths have been confirmed.

Whole genome sequencing showed that the outbreak of Salmonella Newport infections in Canada is related genetically to the outbreak in the United States. This means that people in both of these outbreaks likely share a common source of infection.

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