Food Safety

Raw Onions Are Linked to a Salmonella Outbreak in 37 States

Red, white, and yellow onions imported from Mexico are all impacted.

October 20, 2021
Photo by Linda Xiao

Stop what you’re doing and check your onions. Then, depending on what you see—chuck ’em, compost ’em, whatever you need to do! There is a massive (and I mean, massive) outbreak of salmonella in raw onions that has already impacted 37 states in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, consumers should refrain from buying or eating any whole fresh red, white, or yellow onions if they were imported from Chihuahua, Mexico and distributed by ProSource Inc. So how do you know if your onions are impacted? If you purchased a bag of onions (generally sold in three- or five-pound quanties), there should be a tag that tells you where the onions were grown and which company distributed them. If they were grown in the U.S., they're safe (for now). However, if the label says that they were grown in Chihuahua, Mexico, get rid of 'em. Furthermore, if you only purchased one or two onions from a large grocery store display, there is no easy way to know where they're from. In that case, it's safest to assume they're contaminated.

Per the CDC’s food safety alert, which was announced on Wednesday, October 20th, more than 600 people have experienced food poisoning after consuming the onions and over 100 people have been hospitalized. At this time, the onions have not been formally recalled and there have been no deaths.

ProSource Inc., which distributed the onions to grocery stores and restaurants across the United States, says that the most recent batch of Mexican-grown onions were imported on August 27th, 2021 but many could still be in consumer’s homes or on grocery store shelves, as they are shelf-stable for up to three months.

If you are unsure of where your onions were grown, it’s best to throw them out or try to return them to the place of purchase for a refund. Using hot soapy water or a dishwasher, be sure to disinfect any areas that the onions may have come in contact with, such as a fruit bowl, countertops, or crisper drawer. If you stored the onions in the same bowl as garlic or shallots, the safest thing to do is discard those as well in case the salmonella happened to spread. Salmonella typically grows in very warm temperatures. Although you may be able to get rid of the bacteria by thoroughly cooking the onions, health experts advise against doing so.

Symptoms of salmonellosis include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, or a high fever. Infection can occur within 12 to 72 hours after consumption and symptoms can last for four to seven days. If your symptoms become severe, or if they last longer than one week, contact your doctor or a medical professional.

Were you impacted by the latest food safety alert? Let us know how you're feeling about it in the comments below!

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Former Food52 Staff Editor


rmarnell October 22, 2021
Just checked.... mine are from Colorado :)
Kelly V. October 22, 2021
Woohoo, you're safe!
[email protected] October 21, 2021
What if the onions have been cooked?
Kelly V. October 21, 2021
While thoroughly cooking anything that has salmonella (i.e. chicken or vegetables) will generally kill off most of the bacteria, I certainly wouldn't recommend it just to be safe!