A total of 43 American states had various types of onions recalled due to a widespread Salmonella bacteria outbreak. More than 800 people have contracted infections, 114 of whom were hospitalized as of Aug. 11.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a warning not to sell, serve, or eat contaminated onions. The onions had been distributed in all 50 states in the U.S., with 43 states reporting cases of Salmonella infections.
The FDA traced back the outbreak to onions distributed by Thomson International Inc. of Bakersfield, California. On Aug. 1, the company issued a recall of all its onions, covering red, white, yellow, and sweet bulbs that were distributed after May 1.
The numbers of infected individuals are expected to go up, given the week-long period between ingestion the onion and developing symptoms, and an additional two to four weeks of delays in reporting.
"The onions are being recalled because they have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella, an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems," the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said in a statement.
Salmonella thrives on the intestine and moves from one victim to the next via the fecal-oral route. This happens because foods and produce are often contaminated with animal waste. Common culprits include eggs, milk, poultry, and beef, but any food product can be contaminated, according to the CDC. Previously recorded cases of salmonella infections have been traced back to alfalfa sprouts, cantaloupe, and tomatoes.
Symptoms of salmonella infection include abdominal cramps, fever, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. These symptoms usually start to appear anywhere from 6 hours to 6 days after consumption. With rest and hydration, most people are able to recover in their homes. Experts advise rest and fluids containing electrolytes.
Only a small percentage of the population with a salmonella infection experience severe complications. If diarrhea and vomiting persist, it is best to get to the nearest emergency facility. To hydrate patients, intravenous fluids may be given.
While adults mostly experience mild symptoms, children under five years are more in danger as they will likely to develop severe complications.
In addition to whole onions, other produce has also been recalled, including ready-to-eat products, mixed salads, and deli items. The list of recalled items continues to grow as of writing. For the latest info, see the FDA's website.