KEY POINTS

  • The onions were imported from Chihuahua, Mexico
  • Among the 652 who fell ill, 129 were hospitalized
  • Texas has the most number of illnesses among affected states

Authorities have been investigating a Salmonella outbreak that has sickened hundreds of people from 37 states. Data revealed the illnesses stemmed from imported onions.

The U.S. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identified the source of a Salmonella Oranienburg outbreak to be whole red, white and yellow onions that were imported from Chihuahua, Mexico and distributed across the U.S. by ProSource, it announced in a media release Wednesday.

Based on the interviews with the people who got sick, 75% of them "ate or possibly ate" foods that contained raw onions before they fell ill. Some of them even reported eating in the same restaurants, many of which ProSource had supplied with whole onions.

According to the CDC, the onions were sold to restaurants and grocery stores throughout the U.S. Though ProSource noted that the last time it imported the onions was on Aug. 27, the products can actually last for up to three months, so they may still be in restaurants' and people's storage.

"CDC advises people who have unlabeled whole red, white, or yellow onions at home to throw them away and not eat them," the CDC noted. "People should not eat, and businesses should not sell or serve, whole onions that were imported from Chihuahua, Mexico, and distributed by ProSource Inc."

The products may also have a sticker or packaging that says "ProSource Inc." and the country where they were grown.

"If you can't tell where the onions are from, don't buy or eat them," the agency noted, adding that investigators are still determining whether there are other onions or suppliers that could be linked to the outbreak.

As of Oct. 18, a total of 652 people from 37 states have fallen ill in connection to the outbreak, including 129 who needed to be hospitalized. The map of illnesses shows where the people who fell ill were from, with Texas having the most number of illnesses at 158, followed by Oklahoma with 98 and Virginia with 59.

The agency acknowledged the possibility that the outbreak is not limited to the listed states and that it likely affected more people than reported. This is because many can actually recover from Salmonella without needing medical care and are thus not tested for it.

Those who throw out their whole onions should wash any containers and surfaces that may have come in contact with the onions. They should also contact their healthcare provider if they develop severe Salmonella symptoms, including diarrhea for three days that's not improving, bloody stool, signs of dehydration and excessive vomiting.

Onions Representation. Photo: Matthias Böckel/Pixabay