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Salmonella cases linked to onions found in 16 Montana counties

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HELENA – State and local public health agencies in Montana are investigating 52 reports of both confirmed and suspected Salmonella illnesses linked to onions from ranch and produce distributor Thomson International, Inc.

The first cases of illness date back June 21 and continue to be reported. Local investigations have confirmed that ill individuals most often consumed the recalled onions at restaurants. Confirmed and suspected cases have been identified in 16 counties including include Beaverhead, Big Horn, Carbon, Cascade, Deer Lodge, Fergus, Flathead, Gallatin, Hill, Jefferson, Lake, Lewis and Clark, Missoula, Park, Ravalli, and Yellowstone. There are currently 12 hospitalizations in the state.

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.

“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 six hours to six 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, 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, California 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.

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