Salmonella cases linked to onions in Utah, across the U.S. increase to nearly 900

(Photo courtesy of the FDA) Mesh bags of onions sold under the Utah Onions label are being recalled.

A salmonella outbreak linked to onions has expanded to 43 states and Canada, prompting a recall from a producer in California and various grocery chains, health officials said.

As of Sunday, there had been 640 reported salmonella cases, including 85 hospitalizations, tied to the outbreak, the Food and Drug Administration said. Many of the reported cases were in the Western states of Utah (90); Oregon (85); California (76); and Montana (52). There have also been 41 cases reported in Illinois.

The Public Health Agency of Canada reported 239 cases with 29 hospitalizations as of Friday. No deaths have been reported in Canada or the United States.

The FDA identified the likely source of the outbreak as red onions from Thomson International, a produce supplier in Bakersfield, Calif. Last week, the producer recalled red, yellow, white and sweet onions shipped since May 1 because of the risk of contamination. The FDA has started an investigation at the company.

The onions were distributed to wholesalers, restaurants and retail stores across the country and in Canada, Thomson said last week. The producer declined to comment on Sunday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that consumers throw away any onions or foods made with onions supplied by Thomson, or any related products that have been recalled. Health experts say to throw away onions or products containing them if consumers are unsure of who supplied the onions.

The illness, named salmonellosis, can persist for four to seven days, the CDC said. Children, older adults and people with weaker immune systems are most at risk of developing severe illness.

Symptoms include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps. Those who are severely ill may also experience a high fever, headaches, a rash or bloody stool.

It is likely that a substantial number of cases will be reported over the next few weeks because of the lag between when a person eats onions and gets sick, and when that person is tested and has an agency report the illness, said Martin Wiedmann, a food safety professor at Cornell University.

Thomson’s onions were distributed in mesh sacks and cartons under the names TII Premium, El Competitor, Hartley, Onions 52, Imperial Fresh, Utah Onions and Food Lion, the producer said. The FDA said the onions were also distributed under the names Thomson Premium, TLC Thomson International, Tender Loving Care, Majestic and Kroger.

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