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CDC links red onions to salmonella outbreak across the U.S., Canada

Almost 400 people have been sickened in 34 states since July 10. At least 59 are hospitalized.

Nearly 400 people in 34 states have fallen ill from a salmonella outbreak linked to red onions, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.

At least 396 people have been infected with salmonella, a bacteria that can cause diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps, from six hours to six days after exposure, according to the CDC.

The first cases were reported on July 10, affecting three states. Since then, the list of states has increased to 34. So far, 59 people have been hospitalized.

Red onions are suspected as the likely cause of infection, tracing back to Thomas International of Bakersfield, California. On Saturday, the company recalled red, yellow, white and sweet yellow onions shipped after May 1.

The onions were distributed to wholesalers, restaurants, and retail stores in every state, Washington, D.C., and Canada.

On Aug. 1, Thomson International issued a voluntary recall of the onions sold under brand names including Thomson Premium, Hartley's Best, Imperial Fresh, Kroger and Food Lion. The onions were sold in cartons ranging from 5 pounds up to 50 pounds and in mesh sacks of different weights. The Food and Drug Administration is investigating the outbreak along with the CDC. No specific source of contamination or contaminated shipment has yet been identified, according to the FDA.

Although the outbreak is linked to red onions, the CDC recommends avoiding white, yellow and sweet onions from Thomson International. Consumers can check the packaging or sticker on the produce. If they're from Thomson or it's not possible to determine where they came from, throw the onions away, the CDC advises. If any foods have been prepared with onions that may have come from Thomson, do not eat them.

Most people recover without treatment, but severe cases can require hospitalization and antibiotics.