Onions distributed by Idaho company cause salmonella illnesses in 37 states. What we know

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Nearly 130 people have been hospitalized across the United States following a salmonella outbreak tied to Mexico-grown onions distributed by an Idaho company.

The outbreak has sickened more than 650 people in 37 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. No one has died from the contamination, and no reports of sickness have come from Idaho, the CDC said.

The Food and Drug Administration said the yellow, red and white onions came from the state of Chihuahua in Mexico. They were distributed by ProSource Produce, based in Hailey, the FDA said. The company agreed to a voluntary recall.

ProSource CEO Troy Seward and Chief Operating Officer Corey Griswold grew up on farms in Southern Idaho, according to ProSource’s website. No one from the company was immediately available for comment Thursday.

“We’re advising restaurants, retailers and consumers to not eat, sell or serve onions supplied by ProSource that were imported from the State of Chihuahua, Mexico, from July 1 through Aug. 27,” Frank Yiannas, a deputy FDA commissioner for food policy and response, said in a news release.

While the last import took place on Aug. 27, onions can last up to three months in storage and may still be in homes, stores and restaurants, the CDC said.

The onions may have stickers or packaging with a ProSource label and shown they were grown in Mexico.

The CDC asks consumers who have any whole red, white or yellow onions, including medium, jumbo, colossal and sweet onions to throw them away. They should also wash and sanitize any surfaces that were in contact with onions imported from Chihuahua and distributed by ProSource.

Few in West report sickness

More than a third of all of the sicknesses have been tied to two states. In Texas, 158 people have been sickened, while 98 illnesses were reported from Oklahoma, the CDC said.

Very few people in Western states reported getting sick from the onions: nine in California, three in Utah and two in Oregon.

About 75% of those who got sick “ate or possibly ate raw onions or dishes likely containing raw onions before they became sick,” the CDC said.

The total number of people affected is likely much higher, the CDC said. Many people recover from salmonella without being treated or tested for it.

Salmonella, a type of bacteria, causes about 1.4 million illnesses, 26,500 hospitalizations and 420 deaths in the U.S. each year, according to the CDC.

It is usually caused by eating raw or undercooked meat, poultry, eggs or egg products. The incubation period ranges from several hours to two days. Most salmonella infections can be classified as a stomach flu.

Symptoms include diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. More severe cases of salmonellosis may include a high fever, aches, headaches, lethargy, a rash or blood in the urine or stool. The FDA recommends that people showing symptoms of Salmonella infection contact their health care provider.

A salmonella outbreak last year tied to onions caused more than 1,600 people to become sick in the U.S. and Canada. The source of those red onions were supplied by Thomson International Inc., headquartered in Bakersfield, California, the FDA said.

No one died from that outbreak, which took place between June and October 2020, the agency said.

Although a definitive cause was not determined, contaminated water used in a field might have led to contamination of those onions, the FDA said.

Onions from Idaho, Oregon

Most of the onions consumed in the United States are grown domestically. The United States produces about 6.8 billion pounds of onions annually.

California grows about 31% of the nation’s total of onions, according to the University of California at Davis.

About a quarter of the U.S. crop comes from the Snake River Valley of Southwest Idaho and Eastern Oregon, according to Idaho Preferred, a program administered by the Idaho Department of Agriculture to promote food products grown, raised or processed in the Gem State.

In 2020, onion imports from Mexico totaled 408 million pounds.

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