Salmonella case count soars in onion outbreak – UPDATED

As of August 7, 2020, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has received reports of 640 confirmed cases of Salmonella Newport infections across 43 states.

Eight-five outbreak victims have required hospitalization.

In addition to the US outbreak, 239 confirmed cases have been reported to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) across seven provinces as of August 7th. Twenty-nine Canadians have been hospitalized.

According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) illnesses in both countries have been linked to red onions grown and supplied by Thomson International, Inc. (Thomson) of Bakersfield, CA.

On August 1st, Thomson recalled all varieties of onions that could have come in contact with potentially contaminated red onions, including red, yellow, white, and sweet yellow onions shipped from May 1, 2020 to present.

The recalled onions were supplied to customers in the USA and Canada under several brand names, including:

  • Thomson Premium
  • TLC Thomson International
  • Tender Loving Care
  • El Competitor
  • Hartley’s Best
  • Onions 52
  • Majestic
  • Imperial Fresh
  • Kroger
  • Utah Onions
  • Food Lion

In addition to the Thomson recall, companies in the United States and Canada have recalled Thomson-supplied onions or products that contain onions on the Thomson recall list. Please follow the links to the individual recall notices for a complete list of products.

US recalls

Brookshire’s Food and Pharmacy (Southwest Turkey Cobb Salads)
Costco Wholesale (multiple recall notices)
Department of Defense Commissaries
Giant Eagle

Food Lion
Fred Meyer
Fry’s Food Stores
Martin’s Groceries, Supermarket & Pharmacy
Publix Super Markets
Super 1 Foods
Taylor Farms (products without meat)
Taylor Farms (products containing meat)
Walmart (multiple recall notices)

Canadian recalls

List of recalled products in Canada
Costco Canada
Freshpoint Foodservice
Giant Tiger
Multiple companies

This outbreak is not over. Both CDC and PHAC are anticipating additional cases. To keep yourself and your family and your customers safe, please take note of the following guidance:

Advice to consumers

Check your home for red, white, yellow, and sweet varieties, including whole, sliced, or chopped onions, and any prepared foods that contain onions as an ingredient, such as premade salads, sandwiches, wraps, salsas or dips. 

  • If you have onions at home:
    • Look for a label showing where the onion was grown. It may be printed on the package or on a sticker. 
    • If the packaging or sticker shows that it is from Thomson International Inc., don’t eat it. Throw it away and wash your hands.
    • If it isn’t labeled, don’t eat it. Throw it away and wash your hands.
    • If you don’t know whether the onion found in a premade salad, sandwich, wrap, salsa or dip contains onions from Thomson International Inc., don’t eat it. Throw it away and wash your hands.
    • Wash and sanitize any surfaces that may have come in contact with onions or their packaging, such as countertops, fridge drawers, pantry shelves, knives, and cutting boards.
  • If you buy onions at grocery or convenience stores:
    • Make sure they are not selling onions from Thomson International Inc., or serving fresh foods prepared with them. 
    • If you can’t confirm that the onion in stores is not from Thomson International Inc., don’t buy it.
  • If you order salad or any other food items containing onions at a restaurant or food establishment:
    • Ask the staff whether their onions come from Thomson International Inc. If they did, or they don’t know, don’t eat it.
  • Do not eat any recalled food products. Check to see if you have recalled food products at home. If you do, throw them out and wash your hands. 
  • If you believe you are experiencing symptoms of a Salmonella infection, consult a healthcare practitioner immediate.
  • If you have been diagnosed with a Salmonella infection or any other gastrointestinal illness, do not cook food for other people.
  • Contact your local public health authority to report any food safety concerns at restaurants or grocery stores, or if you suspect food poisoning from a restaurant or other food establishments.

Advice to restaurants, retailers, suppliers and distributors

  • Check the label on bags or boxes of onions, or ask their suppliers about the source of their onions.
  • Do not ship or sell onions from Thomson International Inc. of Bakersfield, California, USA, or any products made with these onions.
  • Clean and sanitize all surfaces and storage bins that onions may have come in contact with, including cutting boards, countertops, slicers, utensils, and containers used to store or transport them.

Pig ear pet treats blamed for human Salmonella outbreak

Pig ear pet treats have been linked to an outbreak of multidrug-resistant Salmonella infections in 13 states, according to an investigation report released today by CDC.

Forty-five individuals in California (1), Illinois (3), Indiana (3), Iowa (12), Kansas (3), Massachusetts (2), Michigan (7), Missouri (3), New York (6), North Dakota (1), Pennsylvania (2), South Carolina (1) and Wisconsin (1) have been infected with the outbreak strain, identified as Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i:-.

Twelve outbreak victims were hospitalized.

According to CDC, epidemiological evidence points to pig ear pet treats as a likely source of the illnesses.

Of the outbreak victims interviewed, 89% reported contact with a dog before getting sick and 71% reported contact with pig ear dog treats or with dogs who were fed pig ear dog treats.

In comparison, only 61% of healthy individuals reported contact with a dog, and only 16% reported having handled dog treats such as pig ears in the week before the interview.

Pig ear pet treats obtained from bulk bins at two Michigan retailers have tested positive for a number of different Salmonella strains, according to a report from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD).

According to FDA, MDARD found four different strains – Salmonella London, Salmonella Typhimurium, Salmonella Newport, and Salmonella Infantis – in the pig ear samples.

FDA is working with CDC and state health partners to determine whether any human or animal cases of Salmonella illness may be linked to the strains found in the treats tested by MDARD.

Other brands of individually wrapped or bagged pig ears sold at multiple retail locations in the state tested negative for Salmonella.

Pet Supplies Plus (Livonia, MI) issued a voluntary recall after learning that MDARD found Salmonella in “…aging bulk pig ear product…” in one of the company’s stores.

The contaminated bulk pig ears were stocked in open bins in Pet Supplies Plus stores in AL, AR, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, MA, MD, MI, MN, MO, NC, NE, NH, NJ, NY, OH, OK, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, VA, WI and WV. Prepackaged pig ears are unaffected by the recall.

The company has removed bulk pig ear treats from all of its stores and has stopped shipping these treats from its distribution center.

FDA is working to identify the source of the pig ear treats, how they became contaminated, and where they were distributed.

What consumers need to know

Salmonella can cause illness in both humans and animals. People infected with Salmonella can develop diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps. Most individuals recover without treatment. However, in some cases, the diarrhea may be so severe that hospitalization is needed.

In severe cases, without antibiotic treatment the infection may spread from the intestines into the blood stream and from there to other parts of the body.

Pets do not always display symptoms when infected with Salmonella, but signs can include vomiting, diarrhea (which may be bloody), fever, loss of appetite and/or decreased activity level. Infected pets can shed the bacteria in their feces and saliva without showing signs of being sick.

If you or a household member is suffering from symptoms of Salmonella, consult a healthcare provider.

If you believe your pet may be infected with Salmonella, consult your veterinarian.

How to alert FDA to a problem

Veterinarians who wish to have pets tested for Salmonella may do so through the Veterinary Laboratory Investigation and Response Network (Vet-LIRN Network) if the pet is from a household with a person infected with Salmonella.

FDA encourages consumers to report complaints about pet food products electronically through the Safety Reporting Portal. This information helps FDA further protect human and animal health.

Possible Canadian Norovirus outbreak linked to imported raspberries

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is conducting a food safety investigation into the possible Norovirus contamination of products containing Individual Quick Frozen (IQF) raspberries.

At least one product recall has been triggered by findings emanating from a foodborne disease outbreak investigation.

In response to an inquiry from eFoodAlert, a CFIA spokesperson stated that the recall in question was associated with raspberries from Québec.

The Ministre d’Agriculture, Pêcheries et Alimentation de Québec (MAPAQ) has posted recall notices indicating the origin of the raspberries to be Chile.

As of June 5, 2019, the following recalls are in effect:

The current situation is reminiscent of a 2017 Norovirus outbreak that also was traced to imported IQF raspberries.

Between March 2017 and July 2017, the consumption of frozen raspberries imported from China was blamed for 615 confirmed cases of Norovirus in Québec. Many of the cases occured in seniors’ residences and child daycare centers.

Symptoms of Norovirus infection include nausea, vomiting and copious watery diarrhea, typically lasting from 24 to 60 hours in healthy adults.

Young children and the elderly are susceptible to severe dehydration. Approximately 1% of Norovirus victims may require hospitalization as a result of their illness.

Consumers who have purchased any of the recalled products should either discard them or return them to the place of purchase.