In June 2020, San Diego resident Keith Robert Willis purchased and consumed red onions from Thomson International, which sells its onions to supermarkets across the United States, including Kroger, Walmart, and the grocery delivery service, Imperfect Foods (via Business Insider and Imperfect Foods). On July 1, he began to feel headachy, nauseous, and “developed severe diarrhea.” When tests came back positive for a salmonella infection, his doctor prescribed him with antibiotics. A month later, when Willis filed a lawsuit against Thomson International, he was still on the medication.
Willis’ story mirrors that of Edmonton, Alberta resident, Kendra M. Cooper, who also filed a lawsuit against Thomson International. Cooper was rushed to the hospital on July 6, 2020, two days after eating a hamburger prepared with Thomson International’s red onions. Similar to Willis, Cooper tested positive for salmonella after experiencing “cramping, diarrhea, whole body aches, headache, fever, dehydration, exhaustion.” Later that month, she was also treated for swelling in her lower legs, ankles, and feet.
Both Willis’ and Cooper’s salmonella-related illnesses were part of an outbreak in the U.S. and Canada that led Thomson International to voluntarily recall all of its red, yellow, white, and sweet yellow onions shipped from May 1, 2020, through the present (via the FDA). According to Marler Clark, the law firm representing the two plaintiffs, the outbreak has thus far affected more than 500 people across the United States and Canada, leading to 75 hospitalizations.
What to do if you have onions from Walmart or Kroger
Salmonella is something to take seriously. According to the FDA, the bacteria can “cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems.” Common symptoms include fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain.
An investigation by the CDC indicates that most people thus far affected fell ill between June 19 and July 12, 2020, after having eaten “raw onions in freshly prepared foods including salads, sandwiches, wraps, salsas, and dips.” The CDC has traced many of these cases back to Thomson’s International’s red onions. These, however, may have come into contact with white, yellow, or sweet yellow onions while being grown and harvested, and other varieties may be contaminated as well.
Due to the breadth of the outbreak, the CDC recommends that you check the onions in your refrigerator. If they are a Thomson International brand, or if you cannot confirm where they come from, throw them out. The same applies to dishes you’ve prepared using them. Take extra precautions by sanitizing any surfaces that might have come in contact with your onions. Don’t forget to double-check with restaurants and grocery stores to ensure that the onions are not from Thomson International. If these cannot confirm the source of their onions, avoid purchasing products made using them.
Finally, if you experience salmonella-like symptoms, contact your healthcare provider and your local health department immediately.
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