By Teddy Cambosa
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States has announced the publication of a new report on the comprehensive findings about the 2020 salmonella outbreak directly linked to red onions.
According to Frank Yiannas, FDA Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response, the outbreak was most likely to be linked to whole red onions supplied by Thomson International, Inc., with farms in Bakersfield and Holtville, California.
Said salmonella outbreak has caused more than 1,600 reported illnesses in the U.S. and Canada between June and October 2020.
The FDA’s investigation identified Thomson International Inc. of Bakersfield, California, as the likely source of contaminated red onions. In response, Thomson International, Inc. recalled all varieties of onions that could have come in contact with potentially contaminated red onions due to the risk of cross contamination.
During the investigation, the FDA identified several plausible opportunities for contamination that may have contributed to the outbreak, including potentially contaminated irrigation water, sheep grazing on adjacent land, signs of animal intrusion including scat (fecal droppings) and large flocks of birds that may spread contamination, as well as packing house cleaning and sanitizing practices.
“Eleven of the environmental subsamples tested positive for various types of Salmonella Newport; however, none matched the outbreak strain. Although a conclusive root cause could not be identified, the FDA’s leading hypothesis is that contaminated irrigation water used in a growing field in Holtville, California may have led to contamination of the onions,” Yiannas stated.
He added, “Considering these findings, the FDA encourages all produce growers to assess risks that may be posed by adjacent and nearby land uses, especially as it relates to the presence of livestock and the interface between farmland, rangeland, irrigation water, and other agricultural areas.”
Teddy Cambosa is a graduating BS Biology student and a former campus journalist at Batangas State University.
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