There have been over 400 confirmed cases of salmonella infection in Canada from frozen raw breaded chicken products in the past year and a half.
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, federal, provincial and territorial health and food safety partners have investigated 12 national outbreaks linked to raw chicken, including frozen raw breaded chicken products, since June 2017.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has issued recalls for seven products linked to some of the investigations.
All told, the 12 outbreaks have resulted in 419 laboratory-confirmed cases of salmonella across the country.
Over half of the cases have been in Ontario and Quebec. There have been 10 cases in Newfoundland and Labrador.
As part of the outbreaks, 86 individuals have been hospitalized. Three people have died. Salmonella was not the cause of death for two of those, however, and it was not determined if the bacteria contributed to the cause of death of the third.
There are currently two active national outbreak investigations linked to raw chicken, one involving 39 cases of illness in seven provinces, and another where there have been 25 cases in eight provinces, including three in Newfoundland and Labrador.
The Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health issued a statement today, Sept. 13, advising Canadians of the importance of following the proper food safety practices when handling, preparing or consuming frozen raw breaded chicken products.
Most people who get sick from salmonella recover fully in a couple of days. For some, infection leads to more severe illness, hospitalization and sometimes, though rarely, death.
In July, the CFIA announced industry will be required to implement measures at the manufacturing and processing level to reduce salmonella to below detectable amounts in frozen raw breaded chicken products that are packaged for retail sale.
The new measures were a direct result of the continued link between frozen raw breaded chicken products and outbreaks of food-borne illness.
Facilities that manufacture the products must review their processes and implement control measures by April 1, 2019.
The Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health approved the move in its statement, but cautioned up until that date, and for as long as a year afterwards, frozen raw breaded chicken products containing salmonella will still be in the marketplace and freezers across the country.
* Always cook frozen raw breaded chicken products thoroughly according to the package instructions to an internal temperature of at least 74°C (165°F)
* Use a digital food thermometer to ensure the chicken products are safe to eat
* Wash your hands before and after handling the products, and wash and sanitize the surfaces, dishes and utensils used to prepare and serve them