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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: August 5, 2020
Contact: Jon Ebelt, Public Information Officer, DPHHS, (406) 444-0936, (406) 461-3757, jebelt@mt.gov
                Chuck Council, Communications Specialist, DPHHS, (406) 444-4391, (406) 461-8367, hcouncil@mt.gov


Montana Reports Salmonella Cases Linked to Onions

State and local public health agencies in Montana are investigating 52 reports of confirmed and suspected Salmonella Newport illnesses linked to onions from Thomson International, Inc.

Illnesses began as far back as June 21, 2020 and continue to be reported. Local investigations have confirmed that ill individuals often consumed the recalled onions at restaurants.

Confirmed and suspected cases have been identified in 16 counties across Montana and include 12 hospitalizations. Affected counties include Beaverhead, Big Horn, Carbon, Cascade, Deer Lodge, Fergus, Flathead, Gallatin, Hill, Jefferson, Lake, Lewis and Clark, Missoula, Park, Ravalli, and Yellowstone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is reporting 396 cases in 34 states, with a total of 59 hospitalizations and no deaths.

The CDC, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and state and local public health officials in Montana are advising consumers, retailers, and restaurants not to eat, sell, or serve onions from Thomson International, Inc. The onions may also be listed under the following brand names: Thomson Premium, TLC Thomson International, Tender Loving Care, El Competitor, Hartley’s Best, Onions 52, Majestic, Imperial Fresh, Kroger, Utah Onions, and Food Lion. This investigation is ongoing, and more brands may be added.

“If you cannot tell where your onions are from, throw them away,” said Rachel Hinnenkamp of the Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) Communicable Disease Epidemiology Section.

Symptoms of a Salmonella infection vary for each person, but often include a sudden onset of diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, nausea, and vomiting. Some people may experience dehydration, which can be severe. Most people with a Salmonella infection start feeling sick 6 hours to 6 days after eating or drinking something that contains the bacteria, and typically recover without needing treatment within 4 to 7 days.

 Advice to Consumers

  • Check your refrigerator and kitchen at home for recalled onions or foods made with them. This could include tacos, sandwiches, salads, wraps, salsas, dips, etc.
  • If you used onions to make a food, but don’t know where the onions are from, throw the food away. Do not eat it, even if no one has gotten sick.
  • Wash and sanitize any surfaces that may have come in contact with onions or their packaging, such as countertops, refrigerator shelves and drawers, knives, and cutting boards.
  • When you eat out or shop for food, make sure that the onions are not distributed by Thomson International, Inc.
  • If you are experiencing symptoms of a Salmonella infection, talk to your healthcare provider. Write down what you ate in the week before you got sick. If you are tested and have Salmonella, your local health department will call you for an interview to ask you about foods you ate before you got sick.

 Advice to Restaurants, Retailers, and Suppliers

  • On August 1, 2020, Thomson International, Inc. voluntarily recalled red, yellow, white, and sweet yellow onions because they may be contaminated with Salmonella.
  • Traceback information from cases identified that red onions from the company’s farm in Bakersfield, CA are the likely source of the outbreak. However, because of the way onions are grown and harvested, the company voluntarily recalled yellow, white, and sweet onions as well.
  • Do not serve or sell these onions, or food prepared with them.
  • Clean and sanitize all areas these onions have come in contact with, including counter tops, cutting boards, utensils, and storage bins.

For more information and pictures of the recalled product, please view the recall notice at FDA website.

For more information on Salmonella and other foodborne diseases, visit theDPHHS webpage.