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Salmonella outbreak linked to red onions

A ramekin with red onions next to a stack of tortillas.

Aug. 7, 2020—Red onions from California have been linked to a rapidly growing outbreak of salmonella in both the U.S. and Canada, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). So far, nearly 400 people have been sickened in 34 states, with about 60 hospitalized.

The affected onions have been traced back to Thomson International, Inc., of Bakersfield, California.

People sickened in the outbreak reported eating raw onions in freshly prepared foods, such as salads, sandwiches, wraps, salsas and dips.

If in doubt, throw it out

Red onions are the apparent culprit in this outbreak. But because of the way onions are grown and harvested, other types of onions may be contaminated too, including white, yellow and sweet varieties.

CDC is advising that people check the onions they have in their home and take these steps:

  • Look for packaging or a sticker that says it's from Thomson International. If it is, throw it out.
  • If you can't tell where the onion is from, throw it out.
  • If you made any food with onions and you don't know where they came from, throw the food out—even if no one got sick.
  • Wash and sanitize any surfaces that may have come into contact with onions or their packaging, including countertops, refrigerator drawers, knives and cutting boards.

What if I get sick?

According to CDC, symptoms of salmonella can include diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps. Symptoms can come on as soon as six hours or as long as six days after exposure.

The illness usually lasts four to seven days, and most people recover without treatment. But for some people, the infection can be more severe. This is especially true for young children, older adults and people with weak immune systems.

If you think you have been exposed to salmonella:

  • Call your healthcare provider.
  • Write down what you ate in the week prior to getting sick.
  • Report your illness to your local public health department. Most likely, they will call you back for an interview. The information they gather can help monitor the outbreak and prevent other people from getting sick.

Now is a good time for a reminder! Brush up on these tips to avoid foodborne illness at home.

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