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Salmonella outbreak tied to onions sent hundreds to hospital

Red onions

An outbreak of Salmonella associated with onions imported from Mexico last year has ended, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in an update this week.

In a Feb. 2 post, CDC tied the outbreak to 1,040 illnesses in 39 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, as well as 260 hospitalizations.

Unlike an outbreak of Listeria that CDC is investigating tied to packaged salads produced by Dole, CDC identified no deaths associated with the contaminated onions. In the former outbreak, the subject of recall notices by Dole, CDC has reported 17 illnesses, 13 hospitalizations and two deaths.

Those who fell ill in the Salmonella outbreak tied to onions ranged between the ages of less than 1 and 101, with 58% of them being females, the disease prevention agency reported in its details of the investigation.

The number of people who fall ill in an outbreak is likely much larger than the figure reported since many people are not tested for Salmonella and recover without medical treatment, CDC noted. Also, it takes several weeks to discover if a sick person is part of an outbreak, so recent illnesses may not have been reported, the disease prevention agency explained.

People started falling ill as early as May 31, 2021 and as recently as Jan. 1, 2022, according to CDC. But a CDC chart shows many people got sick from the contaminated onions in the late summer and early fall of 2021.

A majority of people with information who became sick and were interviewed by local and state public health officials reported eating or perhaps ingesting raw onions or dishes likely containing raw onion before they fell ill, CDC reported.

Authorities tied the Salmonella Oranienburg infections to whole raw red, white and yellow onions imported from the State of Chihuahua in Mexico between July 1 and Aug. 31 of 2021. ProSource Produce LLC and Keeler Family, which supplied the onions in the U.S. to restaurants, retail stores and wholesalers, issued recalls in October.

The previous month, as part of its ongoing probe to ascertain the product causing the illnesses, FDA adopted enhanced screening to detect Salmonella in onions being imported into the U.S. FDA, however, said it did not collect any samples since the growing season had ended and onions were not being imported from the State of Chihuahua.

Due to the outbreak, and to help confirm imported food was meeting U.S. food safety standards, FDA commenced onsite domestic investigations as well as Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP) inspections of domestic firms who imported onions from the State of Chihuahua.

“While the outbreak has ended, FDA continues to work closely with Mexican competent authorities through the established Food Safety Partnership to investigate potential source(s) of contamination within the implicated region and to proactively implement prevention strategies ahead of the next growing season,” according to an FDA webpage describing the investigation.

FDA also divulged plans to consider using certain tools during the next growing season, such as import screening and sampling, for onions grown and harvested in the State of Chihuahua.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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