Thomson Onion Salmonella Outbreak: Is CDC Missing in Action?


On July 21, 2020, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) informed the public of an outbreak of Salmonella Newport infections.

On July 24th, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) informed the public of an outbreak of Salmonella Newport infections apparently caused by the same outbreak strain as CDC was finding in the United States.

At the time of the initial reports, neither agency had determined the source of the outbreak.

On July 30th, PHAC updated its outbreak advisory, informing Canadians that the outbreak was linked to consumtion of red onions imported from the United States. That same day, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) posted a recall notice for red onions imported by Sysco in Western Canada.

Using the Canadian data as its starting point, on July 31st, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and CDC announced that the US outbreak was linked to consumption of red onions produced by Thomson International, Inc. of Bakersfield, California.

Thomson International is a family-owned business, incorporated in California.

On August 1st, Thomson recalled its entire harvest of red, yellow, white, and sweet yellow onions from the 2020 growing season – approximately 18,750 tons of onions. The onions were distributed across the United States and exported to Canada.

CDC issued status updates of the size and scope of the US outbreak on August 3rd, August 7th, August 18th and September 1st, and has not been heard from since.

PHAC issued status updates of the size and scope of the Canadian outbreak on August 2nd, August 7th, August 14th, August 21st, August 31st and September 14th.

By August 7th, FDA had initiated its on-site investigation of Thomson’s Bakersfield facility, looking for the source of the Salmonella Newport contamination. By August 11th, FDA personnel had submitted 370 samples to the agency’s lab for Salmonella testing, including 278 swab samples, 82 onion samples, and 10 miscellaneous environmental samples, according to information obtained by eFoodAlert in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

Not a single sample contained Salmonella.

The FDA investigation is still in progress. However, with the growing season complete and the packing plant idle, the chances of finding the source of the Salmonella Newport diminish day by day.

As of the last report from CDC, 1012 individuals in 47 states have been infected with Salmonella Newport as a result of having consumed contaminated onions. Only Louisiana, Oklahoma and Vermont have not reported any outbreak cases. Although there have been no deaths associated with this outbreak, 136 (more than 13%) of the victims have required a hospital stay.

In Canada, there have been 506 confirmed cases of Salmonella Newport in seven provinces, and 71 people (14%) have been hospitalized.

Canada v. USA – A Performance Comparison

Why was CDC unable to determine the link between red onions and the Salmonella Newport outbreak until after PHAC had made the connection?

Why has CDC not provided an update to its outbreak status report in three weeks?

Why does Canada appear to have been much harder hit by this outbreak than the United States – 13.7 cases per million Canadians versus only 3.1 per million Americans? Is this due to some quirk of distribution, or have PHAC and its provincial partners done a better job of reporting than CDC and the various state health agencies?

Has the Covid-19 pandemic hit CDC so hard that it no longer has the resources to follow-up on illness outbreaks elsewhere?

 

IF CDC IS MISSING IN ACTION, WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR THE HEALTH AND SAFETY OF THE US POPULATION?

 

 

Contaminated Peaches from USA Cause Salmonella Outbreak in Canada


Thirty-three Canadians in Ontario (22 cases) and Quebec (11 cases) have become infected with Salmonella Enteritidis after consuming peaches imported from the USA, according to a report released this morning by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).

Three of the outbreak victims have been hospitalized.

Those infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Enteritidis range in age between 0 and 91 years, and 55% of the victims are female.

The outbreak is linked to peaches supplied by Prima Wawona, a California-based company, which has recalled a series of products from the marketplace.

Prima Wawona peaches have also been blamed for an outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis in the USA, which had sickened 68 individuals in 9 US states as of August 21st, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On August 22nd, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) issued a Consumer Advisory alerting Canadians to the presence of the recalled peaches in the country and warning that PHAC had identified some illnesses linked to their consumption.

Canadian consumers should avoid purchasing, serving or eating any of the following peaches, or any other food products containing these peaches.

  • Harvest Sweet Sweet 2 Eat Prima Sweet Value Wawona Yellow Peaches; PLU 4037, PLU 4038 PLU 4044,
  • Harvest Sweet Sweet 2 Eat Prima Sweet Value Wawona White Peaches; PLU 4401
  • Sweet 2 Eat Sweet O Organic Yellow Peaches; PLU 94037, PLU 94038, PLU 94044
  • Sweet 2 Eat Organic White Peaches; PLU 94401
  • Wawona Peaches; 907g / 2 lb; UPC 0 33383 32200 1
  • Wegmans Peaches; 907g / 2 lb; UPC 0 77890 49048 8
  • Extrafresh Peaches; 907g / 2 lb; 0 33383 02071 6; Codes CPO3148, CPO3164, CPO3163, CPO3186, CPO3207, CPO3213, CPO3228, CPO3265, CPO3281, CPO3302, CPO3328, CPO3354, MPO0500, MPO0503, MPO0524, MPO0671, MPO0678, MPO0689, MPO0693, MPO0703, MPO0716, MPO0725, MPO0730, MPO0767, MPO0795

Peaches imported in bulk may have been sold loose or in bulk, with or without a brand name. These peaches may have been repackaged into a variety of formats.

Except for the Extrafresh Peaches, the recall encompasses all products sold from June 1, 2020 forward.

What Consumers Need to Know

  • Do not purchase or consume any peaches listed above. If you are in doubt as to the origin of peaches which you have already purchased, throw them away and disinfect the bin in which they were stored.
  • Some of the peaches may have been supplied to restaurants, hotels, bakeries or various food service establishments, including hospitals and nursing homes and may have been used in salads, desserts or baked goods. It would be prudent to avoid all of these items, unless you can be certain they were produced using peaches not included in this Advisory.
  • If you are suffering from symptoms of salmonellosis, including low-grade fever, stomach cramps, diarrhea, and/or vomiting, consult your healthcare professional. Be prepared to provide information on the food items you consumed during the week before beginning to experience your symptoms

This is the third Canadian foodborne disease outbreak since the beginning of July, all of them linked to consumption of produce imported from the USA. Local produce is readily available during the summer months. Consider supporting your local producers instead of buying imported produce.

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

ALDI
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
H-E-B
Kroger
Martin’s Groceries, Supermarket & Pharmacy
Publix Super Markets
Schnucks
Smith’s
Stop&Shop
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
Sysco

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.