Looks like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found the root cause of the latest Salmonella Newport outbreak. And it’s not alien DNA or demon sperm. It’s onions, specifically red onions.
Yep, if you like red onions with your salads, on your pasta, in your burgers, or just all over your body, you may be shedding a tear. Eating red onions is the one thing that many people affected by this Salmonella outbreak seem to have in common. Well, that and diarrhea as well as all the other wonderful stuff that comes with Salmonella infections.
I first covered this outbreak eight days ago for Forbes. Back then, the cause of the outbreak, which had already affected at least 125 people in 15 states at the time, was unknown. The CDC couldn’t warn the public to avoid any specific foods, and avoiding all foods would not have been a practical suggestion.
But now the CDC has come out with a clear warning: do not eat, serve, or sell any onions from Thomson International Inc., which is located in the Bakersfield, California, area. This includes any products that may have red onions in them. That includes, gasp, avocado toast. While avocado can make so many things so much better, it won’t get rid of Salmonella.
You may be seeing red in the headlines, but the CDC warning is a bit more colorful. Before you stick that whole yellow onion from Thomson International, Inc. into your mouth, keep in mind that this CDC warning said onions, not just red onions. The stinky warning encompassed white, yellow, and sweet onions too. That’s because these other types of onions are grown in the same way and could have been contaminated with the bacteria as well.
So far, this outbreak has already left at least 396 people ill across 34 states, resulting in 59 hospitalizations, according to the CDC. And, oh Canada, our neighbors to the North have been affected too. Public Health Canada has counted 114 confirmed cases in five provinces: British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, and Prince Edward Island.
This isn’t the only Salmonella outbreak that is going on right now. There’s also the poultry-associated multi-strain Salmonella outbreak that has had much more than a paltry impact: 938 cases in 48 states and 151 hospitalizations and one death. This outbreak is presumably unrelated to the onion-linked outbreak, assuming that chickens aren’t the ones harvesting onions at Thomson International, Inc.
So if you want to eat some onions, check the sticker or label first. If you see the name Thomson International, Inc., toss those onions away. Otherwise, you may end up tossing something else 12 to 72 hours later. If you aren’t sure where your onions are from, be on the safe side and get rid of them. Thoroughly clean anything that may have touched your onions. And that’s not a euphemism. If you are eating out, ask the restaurant where they get their onions. Again explain to them that this is not a euphemism. If they can’t tell you where they get their onions, don’t chance trying their onions or any dishes that may have onions. And if they have chickens or ducks serving your food, don’t eat anything.