State, provincial and federal officials in Canada and the United States are investigating Salmonella outbreaks linked to raw frozen breaded chicken products, but they haven’t said whether the outbreaks are related.

In Canada, public health officials announced the Salmonella Enteritidis outbreak June 2 just as the country’s food safety agency posted a recall of “No Name” branded raw frozen breaded “chicken burgers.” Loblaw Companies Ltd. distributed the raw frozen chicken patties nationwide, recalling them June 2.

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“A food sample of No Name brand Chicken Burgers (1kg), with a best before date of Feb. 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,” according to the outbreak announcement from the Public Health Agency of Canada.

The Canadian health agency reported 59 people have been confirmed with Salmonella infections. Ten of them have been so sick that they were admitted to hospitals. No deaths have been reported. 

The age range of the Canadian victims is 1 to 82 years old. They became sick on dates ranging from March 4 through May 6. People who recently became ill are likely not yet included in the federal case count because of the lag time between illness onset and the reporting of confirmed test results to health officials.

Outbreak victims in Canada are spread across eight provinces — British Columbia has six cases; Alberta has eight; Manitoba has nine; Ontario has 14; Quebec has 19; and there is one case in each of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador. 

In the United States, at least four people in Wisconsin and Minnesota are sick with Salmonella infections. All four reported eating raw frozen breaded chicken products they received from Ruby’s Pantry food pantry locations. 

Both states posted public notices about the outbreak on June 1, as did the operators of the faith-based food pantry organization. However, none of the notices reported whether the implicated chicken has any packaging information that consumers can use to determine if they have the product in question.

A spokeswoman from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told Food Safety News o n June 1 that the agency is aware of the Salmonella illnesses in Wisconsin and Minnesota and that it is assisting state officials as needed.

Earlier outbreak also traced to raw frozen chicken
On March 15, Canadian officials announced they were investigating a Salmonella Enteritidis outbreak linked to raw frozen breaded chicken products. The ill people became sick between May 2017 and March this year. Canadian public health officials closed the investigation May 4.

As with the current outbreak, outbreak victims reported eating raw frozen breaded chicken products before becoming ill. Some of the 33 sick people specifically remembered eating Harvest Creek brand chicken nuggets in the week before they got sick. The outbreak stretched across six provinces. The age of victims ranged from 1 to 73 years old.

“Food samples of Harvest Creek Chicken Nuggets (2 x 1kg), with best before date of Oct. 11, 2018, tested positive for Salmonella Enteritidis,” according to the final outbreak update from the Public Health Agency of Canada. 

“The positive food samples had the same genetic fingerprint, using whole genome sequencing, as the cases of human illness reported in this outbreak.”

On March 28 this year, Erie Meat Products Ltd. recalled its Harvest Creek brand chicken nuggets.

Advice to consumers
Anyone who has consumed the implicated frozen chicken products in the United States or Canada and developed symptoms of salmonellosis should immediately contact their health care provider. Food that is contaminated with pathogens such as Salmonella usually doesn’t look or smell spoiled.

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

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.

Salmonellosis is caused by Salmonella bacteria that are spread by eating or drinking contaminated food or water, or by direct or indirect contact with fecal matter from infected people or animals. Tiny amounts of the bacteria that cannot be seen with the naked eye can contaminate large amounts of food and can be transmitted directly from person to person.

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. Many people recover from salmonellosis on their own, but may require extra fluids to prevent dehydration.

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