Massive onion recall sparked by Salmonella outbreak

ProSource Produce LLC of Hailey, Idaho is recalling whole raw onions imported from Mexico due to potential Salmonella contamination.

The recall comes after the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) identified ProSource as a source of onions linked to a large multi-state outbreak of Salmonella Oranienburg illnesses that has sickened 652 people so far, sending 129 of them to hospital.

To date, no onions marketed through ProSource have tested positive for Salmonella, according to the company.

The Recall

The recall encompasses red, yellow, and white whole raw onions shipped to the United States from Chihuahua, Mexico, between July 1, 2021, and August 31, 2021, and includes the following brand names:

  • Big Bull
  • Peak Fresh Produce
  • Sierra Madre
  • Markon First Crop.
  • Markon Essentials
  • Rio Blue
  • ProSource
  • Rio Valley
  • Sysco Imperial

The onions were distributed to wholesalers, broadline foodservice customers, and retail stores in 50 lb., 25 lb., 10 lb., 5 lb., 3 lb., and 2 lb. mesh sacks; and 50 lb., 40 lb., 25 lb., 10 lb., and 5 lb. cartons in:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Iowa
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Massachusetts
  • Maryland
  • Michigan
  • Minnisota
  • Missouri
  • Mississippi
  • North Carolina
  • Nebraska
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Virginia
  • Wisconsin

Some of the recalled product also was shipped to Ontario and Québec, Canada.

The Outbreak

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) first identified an outbreak of 20 confirmed cases of Salmonella Oranienburg illnesses on September 2, 2021. By September 15th, the date of CDC’s initial outbreak investigation announcement, the number of cases had risen to 127 people from twenty-five states.

On September 24th, the CDC reported having found the outbreak strain in a sample taken from a takeout condiment cup containing cilantro and lime. The outbreak victim who supplied the condiment cup reported that it also had contained onions, but none were left in the cup at the time of sampling.

As of October 18th, the CDC had amassed reports of 652 confirmed outbreak cases from 37 US states. Thirty-one percent (31%) of the outbreak victims required hospitalization.

Salmonella Oranienburg illnesses caused by the outbreak strain have been reported by the following states:

  • Alabama (3)
  • Arkansas (12)
  • California (9)
  • Colorado (1)
  • Connecticut (4)
  • Florida (5)
  • Georgia (2)
  • Illinois (37)
  • Indiana (1)
  • Iowa (3)
  • Kansas (14)
  • Kentucky (9)
  • Louisiana (5)
  • Maryland (48)
  • Massachusetts (12)
  • Michigan (9)
  • Minnesota (23)
  • Mississippi (2)
  • Missouri (21)
  • Nebraska (8)
  • New Jersey (5)
  • New Mexico (8)
  • New York (12)
  • North Carolina (14)
  • North Dakota (4)
  • Ohio (7)
  • Oklahoma (98)
  • Oregon (2)
  • Pennsylvania (7)
  • South Carolina (3)
  • South Dakota (8)
  • Tennessee (10)
  • Texas (158)
  • Utah (3)
  • Virginia (59)
  • West Virginia (1)
  • Wisconsin (25)

Déjà Vu

In the summer of 2020, the CDC and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) identifed a cross-border outbreak of Salmonella Newport infections that sickened more than 1100 people in 48 US states and 515 in seven Canadian provinces.

The source of the 2020 outbreak was traced to onions supplied by Thomson International Inc. of Bakersfield, California. Although, the outbreak strain was never recovered from Thomson’s onions, the FDA found eleven different Salmonella serotypes from various environmental samples.

What You Need To Know

Illness subclusters investigated in this outbreak are currently associated with restaurants and food service locations.

The investigation is ongoing to determine the source of contamination and if additional products or firms are linked to illness.

The FDA is working to determine if these onions were available to consumers through grocery stores.

Meanwhile, the CDC advises businesses and individuals to take the following precautions:

  • Businesses should not sell or serve fresh whole red, white, or yellow onions that were imported from Chihuahua, Mexico and distributed by ProSource Inc.
  • Do not buy or eat any whole fresh red, white, or yellow onions if they were imported from Chihuahua, Mexico and distributed by ProSource Inc.
  • Throw away any whole red, white, or yellow onions you have at home that do not have a sticker or packaging.
  • Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of these severe Salmonella symptoms:
    • Diarrhea and a fever higher than 102°F
    • Diarrhea for more than 3 days that is not improving
    • Bloody diarrhea
    • So much vomiting that you cannot keep liquids down
    • Signs of dehydration, such as:
      • Not peeing much
      • Dry mouth and throat
      • Feeling dizzy when standing up
TAINTED
TAINTED. From Farm Gate to Dinner Plate, Fifty Years of Food Safety Failures

Learn more about foodborne illness outbreaks, why they happen, and how to prevent them.

TAINTED. From Farm Gate to Dinner Plate, Fifty Years of Food Safety Failures.

Available in hardcover, paperback and ebook formats.

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