Onions identified as cause of nationwide Salmonella outbreak

Media Contacts
Isabel Brown

652 people sickened in 37 states; 129 people hospitalized

US PIRG Education Fund

WASHINGTON — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Wednesday evening that a nationwide Salmonella outbreak stems at least in part from whole onions imported from Chihuahua, Mexico, and distributed in this country by ProSource Inc.

So far, 652 people have become ill, with 129 of them hospitalized. The oldest is 97 years old; the youngest is less than 1. No deaths have been reported. The CDC has been investigating the outbreak since at least last month and discovered through epidemiologic and tracing data that one source of infections in this outbreak are whole red, white, and yellow fresh onions sold to restaurants and grocery stores throughout the United States. The first case was traced back to May 31. The outbreak escalated in August.

The CDC said the onions were last imported Aug. 27. Onions can last up to three months, so they may be sitting unused in homes and businesses. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said Wednesday that ProSource has recalled the onions.

Officials are investigating whether any other onions or suppliers are also connected to this outbreak. 

In response, Isabel Brown, Consumer Watchdog Associate with the PIRG Education Fund, issued the following statement:

“This case clearly points to the need for better tracing of imported foods so that when an outbreak occurs, we can identify the source more quickly. It’s unfortunate that more than 600 people got sick and more than 100 people were hospitalized before investigators figured out onions were the source and could warn the public what to avoid.

“We’ve known for a long time there’s an urgent need to better track all food through the supply chain so we can identify infections more quickly and recall contaminated food immediately.

“The CDC estimates that every year, 48 million people get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die from foodborne diseases in this country. This is unacceptable. It doesn’t have to be this way.” 


The CDC says that consumers who have unlabeled whole red, white, or yellow onions should throw them away. And businesses should not sell or serve whole red, white, or yellow onions that were imported from Chihuahua, Mexico, and distributed by ProSource Inc.

The CDC also says people infected with Salmonella generally suffer from fever, diarrhea and stomach cramping within anywhere from six hours to six days after eating contaminated food. The illness typically lasts up to a week. Children younger than 5, senior citizens and people with weakened immune systems are more likely to have complications.