USA – Outbreak Investigation of Salmonella Newport: Red Onions (July 2020)

FDA

The FDA, along with CDC and Canadian, state, and local partners, has been investigating a multistate outbreak of Salmonella Newport infections. FDA’s traceback portion of the investigation is complete and has identified Thomson International, Inc. of Bakersfield, CA, as the likely source of potentially contaminated red onions.

The multistate outbreak of Salmonella Newport infections linked to red onions from Thomson International, Inc. that were sold in several regions of the United States and Canada, investigated by the FDA, along with CDC and Canadian, state, and local partners, is over. The outbreak resulted in recalls for multiple onion varieties and products containing onions. FDA’s traceback investigation identified a packing facility and multiple farms that supplied red onions during the time period of interest. Joint FDA, California Department of Public Health (CDPH), and California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) field-level investigations were initiated at multiple Thomson International Inc. locations and surrounding areas within days of identifying the suspect vehicle and the firm. However, most product had already been harvested and distributed by that time. Thus far, FDA has completed over 2000 product and environmental analyses from multiple Thomson International Inc. locations and surrounding areas, including water, soil, and scat samples. Although a variety of genetic strains of Salmonella Newport have been detected, as well as multiple other Salmonella serotypes, a genetic match to the outbreak strain has yet to be identified in any of the samples collected. Additional sample analysis is underway.  Although the outbreak is being declared over, the FDA will continue its root cause investigation and will communicate any findings that could assist future prevention efforts.

Recommendations

According to the CDC, this outbreak appears to be over. Recalled products should no longer be available in stores, but onions have a long shelf-life and recalled products could still be in consumer’s homes or in restaurants, especially if recalled products were frozen.

Advice for consumers, restaurants, and retailers: Consumers, restaurants, and retailers should not eat, sell, or serve recalled onions from Thomson International, Inc. or products containing recalled onions. If you cannot tell if your onion is part of the recall, or your food product contains recalled onions, you should not eat, sell, or serve it, and should throw it out.

FDA recommends that anyone who received or suspects having received recalled onions, or products containing recalled onions, use extra vigilance in cleaning and sanitizing any surfaces and containers that may have come in contact with recalled products to reduce the risk of cross-contamination. This includes cutting boards, slicers, countertops, refrigerators, and storage bins.

Consumers who have symptoms of Salmonella infection should contact their health care provider. Most people with salmonellosis develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. More severe cases of salmonellosis may include a high fever, aches, headaches, lethargy, a rash, blood in the urine or stool, and in some cases may become fatal.

Suppliers and Distributors: Suppliers, distributors and others in the supply chain should not use, ship or sell recalled onions from Thomson International, Inc. or food products containing recalled onions. Suppliers and distributors that re-package raw onions should use extra vigilance in cleaning any surfaces and storage areas that may have come into contact with recalled onions. If there has been potential cross contamination or mixing of onions from other sources with recalled onions, suppliers and distributors should discard all comingled and potentially cross-contaminated product.

Investigation Update

October 8 Update

According to the CDC, this outbreak appears to be over. Recalled products should no longer be available in stores, but onions have a long shelf-life and recalled products could still be in consumer’s homes or in restaurants, especially if recalled products were frozen.

Although the outbreak is being declared over, the FDA will continue its root cause investigation and will communicate any findings that could assist future prevention efforts.

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