Multiple Canadian provinces are experiencing a Salmonella outbreak linked to frozen raw breaded chicken products – the fourth such outbreak in the last two years.
In this latest outbreak, 30 cases of Salmonella Enteritidis (the strain of Salmonella associated with poultry) have been reported across four provinces – Ontario (17), Quebec (7), New Brunswick (4) and Alberta (2). Of the 30 people who have fallen ill, four have been hospitalized. Initial investigations show that frozen raw breaded chicken may be the cause of the outbreak.
Over the past 10 years, rates of Salmonella infection have steadily increased. Many cases of infection have been linked to raw frozen chicken coated in breadcrumbs or batter – such as chicken nuggets, chicken burgers, popcorn chicken or chicken fingers. It’s thought that the outer appearance of these products which appear cooked or browned on the outside is leading consumers to be less cautious in the cooking process.
The issue was recognized by the poultry industry in 2015. At the time, the industry body voluntarily introduced additional labelling requirements to show that these products are ‘raw’, ‘uncooked’ or that they ‘must be cooked’. Packages also contain explicit instructions not to microwave the products.
What is Salmonella?
Salmonella is a bacterium that causes food poisoning. It’s often passed onto humans through raw or undercooked meat, poultry or eggs.
Symptoms of Salmonella poisoning start between 6 and 72 hours after consumption and include diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, headaches.
In most cases symptoms last 4 to 7 days and clear up without treatment.
How to prevent Salmonella infection from frozen raw breaded chicken
It’s important to note that frozen chicken products carrying Salmonella may look and smell normal.
In order to best protect yourself when preparing these products:
- Always follow the cooking instructions on the packaging.
- Use a thermometer to check the internal temperature of the product – insert the thermometer into the centre of the product where the poultry is likely to be coldest.
- Frozen chicken products must be cooked to a temperature of 74°C / 165°F for two minutes or longer. If cooking whole poultry it must reach 83°C / 180°F.
- Take the same precautions when handling frozen chicken products as you would when handling raw chicken.
- Don’t let frozen chicken products come into contact with ready-to-eat foods.
- Use separate cooking equipment and utensils for frozen chicken products and other types of food.
- Never microwave frozen raw breaded chicken products.
- Never rinse frozen raw breaded chicken products.
- Always remember the golden rule of food safety – “If in doubt, throw it out!”