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Canada reports more ill in outbreak traced to frozen chicken

An outbreak in Canada that has been traced to raw, frozen chicken patties is continuing to make people sick, with nine new cases confirmed by federal officials.

The new cases brings the number of ill people to 68. At least 15 people have been so sick they were admitted to hospitals, according to an update from Health Canada. The Salmonella enteritidis outbreak is spread across nine provinces. Illness onset dates reported so far rance from March 4 through May 13. The sick people range in age from 1 to 85 years.

“Several of the ill individuals involved in the outbreak reported having eaten No Name brand chicken burgers before their illness occurred,” according to the Health Canada outbreak update. 

“A food sample of No Name brand Chicken Burgers — 1 kilogram packages — with a best before date of February 6, 2019, tested positive for Salmonella Enteritidis. The positive food sample had the same genetic fingerprint, using whole genome sequencing, as cases of human illness reported in this outbreak.”

The nine jurisdictions reporting illnesses and the number of sick people confirmed in each are as follows: British Columbia 8, Alberta 9, Manitoba 9, Ontario 15, Quebec 23, New Brunswick 1, Nova Scotia 1, Newfoundland and Labrador 1, and the Northwest Territories 1.

As part of the outbreak investigation, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) issued a food recall warning on June 2 for No Name brand chicken burgers with a best-before date of Feb. 6, 2019. The CFIA reported Loblaw Companies Ltd. distributed the raw, frozen breaded chicken patties nationally.

The Loblaw’s recall includes a warning urging consumers to check their home freezers for the raw frozen chicken product. Public health officials are concerned its long shelf life will result in people consuming it in the coming months because they are unaware they have food that has been recalled. 

The recalled chicken has a date code of Feb. 6, 2019, on the outer package. Other label information that consumers can use to identify the 1-kilogram packages of chicken recalled by Loblaw Companies is a code of 0378M on the inner package and the UPC number 0 60383 16636 6. 

Both the CFIA and Canada’s federal health agency say the unbranded, raw frozen chicken patties are not safe to eat.

“Do not use or eat the recalled product. Secure the recalled product in a plastic bag and throw it out or return it to the store where it was purchased,” the public health officials urged. 

“If you do not have the original packaging of a frozen raw breaded chicken product and you are unsure of whether it is included in the food recall warning, throw it out just to be safe.”

Additional products may be recalled as the CFIA progresses with its investigation.

Advice to consumers
Anyone who has consumed the recalled “no name” frozen chicken and developed symptoms of salmonellosis should immediately contact your health care provider. Food that is contaminated with pathogens such as Salmonella usually doesn’t look or smell spoiled.

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Some raw, frozen chicken products may appear to be cooked, according to Canadian officials. As with any raw chicken, anyone handling frozen raw chicken products should exercise safe food practices to kill foodborne pathogens such as Salmonella. Special care is also necessary to avoid contaminating preparation areas, utensils and hands.

Frozen raw breaded chicken products and raw poultry pieces must be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 74 degrees C (165 degrees F) to ensure that they are safe to eat, according to Canadian officials. Whole poultry must be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 82 degrees C (180 degrees F). 

Health officials recommend the following tips for the safe handling of raw poultry.

  • Wash hands and surfaces often when handling raw poultry.
  • Separate raw meats and poultry from other foods in the refrigerator.
  • Refrigerate or freeze raw poultry promptly after purchasing.
  • Cook all raw poultry to an internal temperature of 165ºF.
  • Always follow manufacturer’s instructions provided on product packaging.
  • Place cooked poultry on a clean plate or platter before serving.

Anyone can become sick with a Salmonella infection, but children younger than 5, people older than 65, and people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients and pregnant women, are at higher risk of serious illness because their immune systems are more fragile.

Many people who become ill from a Salmonella infection will recover fully after a few days. It is possible for some people to be infected with the bacteria and not get sick or show any symptoms, but to still be able to spread the infection to others.

Symptoms of Salmonella infection include diarrhea, abdominal pains, fever, and vomiting that lasts for several days. 

Bloodstream infections can occur, but are rare, and can be quite serious in the very young and older people.

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