How do I know if the onions or other food products in my pantry or fridge are part of a recall I just heard about?
There are currently two recalls to which you might be referring. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a warning recently about onions that have been recalled by Thomson International Inc. of Bakersfield, Calif., due to concerns that the products might be contaminated with salmonella Newport.
Likewise, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service issued a public health alert this week for ready-to-eat meat and poultry products containing onions that were a part of the FDA warning.
According to the FDA, the onions, recalled on Aug. 1, include all of Thompson International’s red, white, yellow, and sweet yellow onions shipped from May 1 through the present. The onions were distributed to wholesalers, restaurants, and retail stores in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Canada. A list of the recalled onions can be found on the FDA site.
The USDA-FSIS then issued their alert Aug. 5 for ready-to-eat meat and poultry products that contain “onions that have been recalled by Thomson International Inc. due to concerns that the products may be contaminated with salmonella,” according to a written statement.
The ready-to-eat meat and poultry products were produced by Taylor Farms on July 30 and 31. A specific list of recalled products can be found on the USDA site.
The move is to try to prevent consumers from developing a foodborne illness from salmonella, which typically causes a million foodborne illnesses in the United States each year, resulting in some hospitalizations and even some deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Salmonella infection can cause diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps within 12 to 72 hours of infection, with the symptoms typically lasting four to seven days. In some people, the disease can be so severe that it leads to hospitalization or even death, the CDC says.
As of Aug. 3, some 396 salmonellosis illnesses—including 59 hospitalizations—had been reported after consumers ate the contaminated foods, the CDC says. In Ohio, at least seven people have reported salmonella infections as part of this outbreak, the CDC says.
Consumers who aren’t sure if the onions in their pantry are a part of the recall should throw them out, the FDA says.
That’s one reason why this outbreak is a great example of the need for consumer traceability back to producers, said Kara Morgan, associate director of the Center for Foodborne Illness Research and Prevention (CFI) at The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).
The center, which was founded as a nonprofit organization in 2006 and became part of CFAES in September 2019, offers links to food safety-related research; food safety education and training resources; food safety online courses; consumer awareness and education information; information on food safety outreach and public service; links to foodborne safety organizations and resources; and a food safety blog.
“Consumers do not have any tools for knowing if the products in their pantries are from Thomson, so this outbreak led to a lot of needless food waste,” Morgan said. “The FDA and others are working on systems to improve this, and those solutions cannot come soon enough.”
More information on these recalls, in addition to any other recalls and food safety information can be found on the CFI website at foodsafety.osu.edu. (Author: Turner, T. 2020. Chow Line is a service of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center)
Pat Brinkman is the Family and Consumer Sciences Educator for Ohio State University Extension Fayette County.