Idaho state health officials are urging Idahoans to be aware of a national outbreak of Salmonella involving onions that has sickened 26 people in the state, and possibly more.

As of August 5, a national total of 663 cases of Salmonella, including the 26 in Idaho, have been reported from 45 states. Cases in Idaho have occurred among residents of all seven public health districts.

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The investigation is ongoing; the first illnesses associated with this growing nationwide outbreak occurred in late June. Interviews with people infected suggest that contaminated red onions are the most likely source of the Salmonella bacteria. People reported eating raw onions in freshly prepared foods including salads, sandwiches, wraps, salsas, and dips.

“Because onions have a fairly long shelf life, we are concerned that consumers may still have these products in their homes,” said Dr. Leslie Tengelsen, epidemiologist with the Division of Public Health in DHW. “We recommend that you throw away any onions you have in your pantry.”

Through product traceback efforts by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), red onions from Thomson International, Inc., of Bakersfield, Calif., were determined to be the likely source. Because of the processes used to grow and harvest onions, other types of onions, such as white, yellow, or sweet yellow, may also be contaminated. On August 1, Thomson International, Inc., voluntarily recalled red, yellow, white, and sweet yellow onions because they may be contaminated with Salmonella. Visit the FDA recall website for details, including pictures of the recalled products.

DHW and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advise:

Consumers do not eat any onions from Thomson International, Inc., or food made with these onions. If you don’t know where onions are from, don’t eat them. Other brand names that may be on labels include:

Thomson Premium
TLC Thomson International
Tender Loving Care
El Competitor
Hartley’s Best
Onions 52
Imperial Fresh
Utah Onions
Food Lion

Restaurants, and retailers: Do not serve or sell the recalled onions and clean and sanitize all surfaces that onions have come in contact with, including cutting boards, countertops, slicers, utensils, and storage bins.

Suppliers, distributors, and others in the food chain: Do not ship or sell the recalled onions. Those that repackage raw onions should clean and sanitize any surfaces and storage bins that may have come in contact with the recalled onions.

Most people infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps six hours to six days after being exposed to the bacteria. The illness usually lasts four to seven days and most people recover without treatment, but some people may require hospitalization.

People most likely to have severe illness are children younger than 5 years, adults 65 years and older, and people with weakened immune systems. Seek medical attention and contact your local public health district if you think you have Salmonella infection.