Federal health officials are investigating a multi-state outbreak of salmonella infections that has already got more than 70 people sick and sent over a dozen to the hospital.
As of Tuesday, 73 people across 22 states were infected with a strain of salmonella, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believes could have derived from recalled onions processed at California-based Gills Onions.
At least 15 people have been hospitalized, but no deaths have been reported, the CDC said.
However, the federal agency warned the number of infected individuals “is likely much higher” than what’s being reported given that some people recover without being tested for salmonella.
Gills Onions issued a voluntary recall for its fresh diced onions products Monday after discovering the brand was part of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) outbreak investigation.
The products, which have the potential to be contaminated with the organism, were shipped to six states – Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington – according to the recall notice.
The CDC and FDA are still collecting data to investigate the infections alongside other public health and regulatory officials. However, of the 19 people already interviewed, 14 reported eating onions or being served diced onions.
Of the 14 people, six said they resided in long-term care facilities, according to the CDC. Three of the six live in the same long-term care facility.
The FDA discovered that onions processed at Gills Onions were available at points of service where people had eaten before becoming sick. Meal records from the long-term care facilities also showed that people were served diced onions from Gills Onions, according to the CDC.
Gills Onions directly contacted customers who got the product directly from the company and requested that they remove it from shelves.
“We also asked direct customers to notify their customers of this recall,” the company said in its recall notice.
Healthy individuals who become infected with salmonella can have symptoms such as diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps, and these symptoms usually last from six hours to six days after consuming the bacteria.
However, children under 5 years old, adults over 65 and people with weakened immune systems “may experience more severe illnesses that require medical treatment or hospitalization,” the CDC said.