The Canadian government is warning consumers about the safety of breaded chicken nuggets, chicken burgers and strips after 44 people have been sickened with Salmonella. The Public Health Agency of Canada is collaborating with provincial public health partners, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and Health Canada to investigate an outbreak of Salmonella infections in Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador linked to frozen, raw, breaded chicken products. Twelve people have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported. Individuals became sick between Feb. 7 and May 23, 2015. “While breaded chicken nuggets, chicken burgers and strips may look like they’re pre-cooked, many frozen breaded poultry products are actually raw and need to be handled carefully and cooked thoroughly,” Health Canada stated in a public health warning. Raw meat and poultry can contain harmful bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria. However, Salmonella and other harmful foodborne bacteria can be completely eliminated by cooking thoroughly. Health Canada provided this advice for consumers preparing frozen, raw, breaded poultry products:
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water before and after handling raw poultry products.
- Use a separate plate, cutting board, and utensils when handling raw poultry products to prevent the spread of harmful bacteria.
- Do not eat raw or undercooked poultry products. Cook all frozen, stuffed, breaded or raw poultry pieces to a minimum internal temperature of 74 degrees C (165 degrees F). Whole poultry should be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 82 degrees C (180 degrees F).
- Always follow the cooking and heating instructions on the package of any frozen, raw, breaded poultry product, including products labeled with phrases such as Uncooked, Cook and Serve, Ready to Cook, and Oven Ready.
- Due to uneven heating, microwave cooking of frozen, raw, breaded poultry products, including chicken nuggets, strips or burgers, is not recommended.
Symptoms of a Salmonella infection, called salmonellosis, typically start 6 to 72 hours after exposure to Salmonella bacteria from an infected animal or contaminated product. Symptoms include fever, chills, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, headache, nausea and vomiting. These symptoms usually last four to seven days. In healthy people, salmonellosis often clears up without treatment. In some cases, severe illness and hospitalization may occur. People who are infected with Salmonella bacteria can be infectious from several days to several weeks. People who experience symptoms, or who have underlying medical conditions, should contact their health care providers if they suspect they have a Salmonella infection. Anyone can become sick with a Salmonella infection, but infants, children, seniors and those with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of serious illness because their immune systems are more fragile than healthy individuals.
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