Almost 400 people have fallen ill with Salmonella since the start of the year in the United Kingdom after eating frozen chicken products.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Public Health England (PHE) are investigating a rise in patients with two strains of Salmonella Enteritidis linked to frozen raw breaded processed chicken products.

Cases of Salmonella linked to raw breaded chicken products have been identified in previous years, however there has been an increase in 2020.

There have been 327 people sick in England, 32 in Scotland, 26 in Wales and five in Northern Ireland.

For cases where information is available, 36 percent needed hospital treatment and four people have died. However, it is not known whether Salmonella infection was a contributory factor in the deaths, and one fatality was attributed to COVID-19.

There is a high proportion of children sick as 43 percent of cases are aged 16 years old or younger, as well as a greater rate of men being affected than women with 58 percent of patients being male.

The two agencies warned people to take care when handling and cooking frozen raw breaded chicken products at home, such as nuggets, goujons, dippers, poppers and kievs.

Nick Phin, deputy director of PHE’s National Infection Service, said: “From January 2020 there have been 390 cases of salmonellosis caused by two strains of Salmonella Enteritidis linked to frozen, raw, breaded chicken products.”

Inadequate cooking and cross-contamination in the kitchen during food preparation can lead to salmonellosis.

Polish chicken connection
Earlier this month, Aldi recalled Roosters Southern Fried Poppin’ Chicken and Roosters Breaded Poppin’ Chicken because they might contain Salmonella.

Both 210-gram products with batch codes L15320, L14720, L14820, L14920, L15020, L15120 and L16020 and a best-before date May 25, 2022, are affected.

Salmonella Enteritidis and Salmonella Infantis were found in frozen popping chicken from Poland and products were also distributed to Ireland.

Recalled frozen chicken from Iceland

In August, supermarket chain Iceland recalled Chip Shop Curry Chicken Breast Toppers and Southern Fried Chicken Popsters because Salmonella was found in the products.

The chicken breast toppers come in a 400-gram pack and have best before dates Feb. 27, March 17 and April 8, 2021. The southern fried chicken popsters are in a 220-gram pack with a best before date of April 4, 2021.

Raw material for the products came from Poland and they were distributed to Brunei, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Falkland Islands, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Guernsey, Ireland, Israel, Jersey, Malta, Norway, Saint Helena, Saudi Arabia Spain and Thailand.

Consumer and industry responsibility
Colin Sullivan, chief operating officer at the FSA, said people should always check the cooking instructions on packaging, as different brands of the same product might have different instructions.

“Cooking food at the right temperature and for the correct length of time will ensure that any harmful bacteria are killed. We’re not asking you to make changes to the food you buy, but we are asking you to always follow good hygiene practices to help reduce the risk of food poisoning to you and your family.”

In 2018, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) told industry to take measures at manufacturing and processing levels to reduce Salmonella to below detectable amounts in frozen raw breaded chicken products for retail sale.

Measures were prompted by the continued link between these products and outbreaks of Salmonella and became applicable in April 2019.

Since the introduction of whole genome sequencing in May 2017, 17 national outbreaks were linked to frozen raw breaded chicken products affecting hundreds of Canadians. The CFIA issued recall warnings for 13 products.

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