FDA Brief: FDA Releases Investigative Report Following 2020 Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Red Onions

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For immediate release:

The following quote is attributed to Frank Yiannas, FDA Assistant Commissioner for Food Policy and Response

“The FDA worked with the CDC, state partners and Canadian officials to investigate the largest outbreak of Salmonella Newport in more than a decade, which was linked to red onions. The FDA today released a report on the 2020 Red Onion-Linked Salmonella Outbreak that includes an overview of the results of our investigation, including factors that potentially contributed to Salmonella contamination of red onions.


“Our investigation revealed that the outbreak was linked to whole red onions supplied by Thomson International, Inc., with farms in Bakersfield and Holtville, California. During the investigation, the FDA identified several plausible opportunities for contamination that may have contributed to the outbreak, including potentially contaminated irrigation water, sheep grazing on adjacent land, signs of animal trespass, including droppings (faecal excrement) and large flocks of birds that can spread. contamination, as well as the cleaning and disinfection practices of the packing station.


“Eleven of the environmental subsamples tested positive for various types of Salmonella Newport; however, none matched the outbreak strain. Although a conclusive root cause could not be identified, the FDA’s primary hypothesis is that contaminated irrigation water used in a growing field in Holtville, California, may have resulted in the contamination of onions. . Given these findings, the FDA encourages all producers of agricultural commodities to assess the risks that may be posed by adjacent and nearby land uses, particularly with respect to the presence of livestock and the interface between agricultural lands. , rangelands, irrigation water and other agricultural areas.


“Protecting America’s food supply and helping to ensure that our food is free from contamination at any point in its journey through the supply chain is a critical goal of the FDA’s work. Food safety is a shared responsibility that involves food producers, distributors, manufacturers, retailers and regulators. The FDA is committed to working with these stakeholders to advance critical work to reduce the risk of contamination events and ensure the continued safety of our food supply.

Additional information

  • The United States Food and Drug Administration releases a report on an investigation conducted in response to an outbreak of Salmonella Newport, which caused more than 1,600 reported cases in the United States and Canada between June and October 2020.
  • The FDA investigation identified Thomson International Inc. of Bakersfield, Calif., as the likely source of the contaminated red onions. Thomson International, Inc. has recalled all varieties of onions that may have come into contact with potentially contaminated red onions due to the risk of cross-contamination.
  • It was the largest outbreak of Salmonella in more than a decade. The FDA recommends that all agricultural commodity farms evaluate growing operations to ensure the implementation of appropriate science-based and risk-based preventative measures, including applicable provisions of the FDA Food Safety Product Safety Rule. Modernization Act (FSMA) and Good Agricultural Practices.

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The FDA, an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, protects public health by ensuring the safety, efficacy, and safety of drugs, vaccines, and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency is also responsible for the safety and security of the food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, electronic radiation emitting products and the regulation of tobacco products.


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