The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a food safety alert on Wednesday regarding an outbreak of Salmonella infections in multiple states it says has been linked to whole onions.
At least 652 people from 37 states have reported sick, 129 of whom have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported, the CDC announced.
The onions—whole red, white, and yellow varieties—were all imported from Chihuahua, Mexico, and distributed across the United States by ProSource Inc., according to epidemiological and traceback data, per the CDC.
“The outbreak strain was identified in a sample of cilantro and lime from a restaurant condiment cup collected from a sick person’s home,” the CDC alert reads. “The sick person also reported that the cup contained onions, though none were left in the cup when it was tested.”
About 75 percent of the sick people who were interviewed said that they ate or possibly ate raw onions or dishes containing raw onions before they became sick, and several ill people reported eating at the same restaurants, which the CDC said indicates “they may be part of illness clusters.”
Investigators determined that ProSource Inc. supplied onions to many of the restaurants where sick individuals had eaten, including the restaurant where the condiment cup was collected. The investigators are now working to see whether other onions or suppliers are also linked to the outbreak.
The CDC advises people who have unlabelled whole onions at home to throw them away. If the onions are known to have been imported from Chihuahua, Mexico, and distributed by ProSource Inc., people should not eat them and businesses should not sell or serve them, the agency advised.
Furthermore, people are urged to wash surfaces and containers that may have touched the onions, using hot soapy water or a dishwasher.
People who eat food contaminated with the Salmonella bacteria can develop diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramping within 6 hours to 6 days, the CDC warned. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days. Most people recover without treatment, but sometimes cases can be severe and warrant hospitalization. Severe illness is more likely in children younger than 5, adults 65 and older, and people with compromised immune systems.
The CDC urges people to contact a doctor if they have severe symptoms.