Health Officials Say Most Frozen Chicken Products Pose Salmonella Risk

Most frozen breaded chicken products available for sale in grocery stores in Canada contain raw chicken that can cause Salmonella illness and therefore pose an increased health risk to Canadians who handle, prepare or consume them. Such products include chicken nuggets, chicken strips, chicken burgers, popcorn chicken and chicken fries. Canadians need to be aware that even though these products may appear to be cooked, they are not. They need to be handled carefully and cooked properly to an internal temperature of at least 74°C (165°F) before they are safe to eat.

Over the past 16 months, federal, provincial and territorial public health partners have identified hundreds of laboratory-confirmed human illnesses associated with frozen raw breaded chicken products contaminated with Salmonella, due at least in part to inadequate cooking or handling. And for every laboratory-confirmed illness reported, we know that there are dozens more unreported illnesses in Canada. During this same period, there have also been food recall warnings issued for seven different frozen raw breaded chicken products.

As of September 13, 2018, there have been 419 laboratory-confirmed cases of Salmonella illness investigated as part of the illness outbreaks across the country: British Columbia (36), Alberta (60), Saskatchewan (13), Manitoba (19), Ontario (146), Quebec (98), New Brunswick (23), Nova Scotia (9), Prince Edward Island (1), Newfoundland and Labrador (10), Northwest Territories (1), Yukon (1), and Nunavut (2). There have been 86 individuals hospitalized as part of these outbreaks. Three individuals have died; however, Salmonella was not the cause of death for two of those individuals, and it was not determined whether Salmonella contributed to the cause of death for the third individual. Infections have occurred in Canadians of all ages and genders.

Despite these warnings and efforts to educate the public on safe food-handling practices, health officials continue to see hundreds of Salmonella illnesses among Canadians of all ages because of consumption of or exposure to improperly cooked frozen raw breaded chicken products. Most people who become ill from Salmonella infection will recover within a week. However, for some people, infection can lead to more severe illness, hospitalization, and in rare cases, even death.

The Government of Canada is working with the food manufacturing industry and food retailers to reduce Salmonella in frozen raw breaded chicken products produced on or after April 1, 2019, to below detectable amounts, therebyreducing the risk of illness for everyone who handles or consumes these types of products. However, until April 1, 2019, and likely for up to a year after this date, frozen raw breaded chicken products containing Salmonella will continue to be in the marketplace and in freezers across the country.

This is why, collectively, officials are stressing the importance of handling and preparing frozen raw breaded chicken products with caution. Always cook your frozen raw breaded chicken products thoroughly according to the package instructions to an internal temperature of at least 74°C (165°F) using a digital food thermometer to ensure that they are safe to eat. Wash your hands before and after handling these products, and wash and sanitize the surfaces, dishes and utensils used to prepare and serve them. Following this advice when handling, cooking or eating these products will help reduce you and your family’s chance of becoming infected with Salmonella.

Photo Credit NetDoctor

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