The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has linked fresh whole onions to a growing and mysterious salmonella outbreak.
In a food safety alert Wednesday, the CDC said 652 people have been infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Oranienburg from 37 states as of Oct. 18. The number of cases is expected to grow as more illnesses are reported.
The outbreak was first reported in mid-September but the CDC, Food and Drug Administration and local health officials had not identified a food linked to the illnesses.
According to the CDC, the affected red, white and yellow onions were imported from Chihuahua, Mexico and distributed by ProSource Inc., which is based in Hailey, Idaho. The onions were sold to restaurants and at grocery stores throughout the country.
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"ProSource Inc. indicated onions were last imported on August 27, but these imported onions can last up to three months in storage and may still be in homes and businesses," the CDC said in its update. "Investigators are working to determine if other onions and suppliers are linked to this outbreak."
The CDC said consumers should not buy or eat the affected onions. The imported onions can last up to three months in storage.
"Throw away any whole red, white, or yellow onions you have at home that do not have a sticker or packaging," the CDC said, noting some may have packaging indicating ProSource as the brand and that they were grown in Mexico. "If you can’t tell where the onions are from, don’t buy or eat them."
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Onion recall 2021
According to the FDA, ProSource Inc. has "agreed to voluntarily recall red, yellow, and white onions" with import dates from July 1 through August 27. Onion types include jumbo, colossal, medium, and sweet onions, the FDA said.
A recall notice and a list of stores that sold the onions were not posted as of Wednesday night. "Additional recall information will be made public as soon as it is available from ProSource Inc.," the FDA said.
On Thursday, the FDA posted a recall notice and ProSource listed the brands the onions were sold under.
Symptoms of salmonella include diarrhea, vomiting, fever, stomach cramps and dehydration, which can begin six hours to six days after being exposed to the bacteria, according to the CDC. Most people recover without treatment after four to seven days.
In 2020, onions linked to another massive salmonella outbreak ended up being recalled.
Isabel Brown, consumer watchdog associate with the PIRG Education Fund, said in a statement that the latest outbreak "points to the need for better tracing of imported foods so that when an outbreak occurs, we can identify the source more quickly.
"We’ve known for a long time there’s an urgent need to better track all food through the supply chain so we can identify infections more quickly and recall contaminated food immediately," Brown said.
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Onions salmonella outbreak spread to 37 states
According to the CDC, Texas has the most cases in the ongoing outbreak with 158, followed by Oklahoma with 98 cases. Virginia has 59 cases, Maryland 58, Illinois 37, Wisconsin 25, Minnesota 23 and Missouri has 21 cases.
Other states with cases have 14 or fewer cases are: Kansas, North Carolina, Arkansas, Massachusetts, New York, Tennessee, California, Kentucky, Michigan, Nebraska, New Mexico, South Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, Connecticut, North Dakota, Alabama, Iowa, South Carolina, Utah, Georgia, Mississippi, Oregon, Colorado, Indiana and West Virginia.
"The true number of sick people in an outbreak is likely much higher than the number reported, and the outbreak may not be limited to the states with known illnesses," the CDC said. "This is because many people recover without medical care and are not tested for Salmonella."
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Contributing: Jordan Mendoza, USA TODAY
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Onion salmonella outbreak 2021: CDC links cases to onions from Mexico