Ensuring that Canadians have access to safe and healthy food is a top priority for the federal government. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), along with their federal food safety partners, Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada, as well as industry, remind Canadians about the importance of always fully cooking frozen raw breaded poultry products prior to consumption, as well as using proper food handling techniques and following cooking instructions to limit the risk of foodborne illnesses as salmonella is commonly found in raw chicken and frozen raw breaded chicken products.
Extensive efforts have been made by the federal food safety partners and the industry to increase consumer awareness that these products are raw and need to be fully cooked before consumption, as well as significant attempts by the industry to improve labeling and cooking instructions on packages.
Despite these efforts, frozen raw breaded chicken products continue to be identified as a source of salmonella infection in Canada.
As such, the CFIA is working with industry to identify and implement measures at the manufacturing/processing level to reduce salmonella to below a detectable amount in frozen raw breaded chicken products such as chicken nuggets, chicken fingers, chicken strips, popcorn chicken and chicken burgers that are packaged for retail sale. This approach focuses the responsibility on the poultry industry and represents a fundamental change to existing requirements for frozen raw breaded chicken products.
These new measures call for processors to identify salmonella as a hazard and to implement changes in order to produce an end product that reduces salmonella to below a detectable amount. The CFIA has granted industry a 12-month implementation period, to begin immediately, to make these changes.
"The CFIA is proud to be working side-by-side with our industry partners to protect the health of Canadians from the ongoing risks of salmonella infection associated with frozen raw breaded chicken products," said Dr. Aline Dimitri, Deputy Chief Food Safety Officer of Canada.
"The poultry industry’s objective is to provide consumers with affordable, safe poultry products, every day. We will continue to work with CFIA to ensure consumers have access to safe frozen raw breaded chicken products," said K. Robin Horel, President and CEO of the Canadian Poultry & Egg Processors Council.
In the last 10 years the incidence of salmonella illness in Canada has steadily increased. This increase has been driven by Salmonella enteritidis (SE), the most common strain of salmonella in the food supply that is often associated with poultry.
While frozen raw breaded chicken products often appear to be "pre-cooked" or "ready-to-eat," these products contain raw chicken and are intended to be handled and prepared the same way as other raw poultry. The safety of these products rests with the consumer who is expected to cook it, according to the directions on the package.
In 2015, industry voluntarily developed additional labeling on frozen raw breaded chicken products that included more prominent and consistent messaging, such as "raw," "uncooked" or "must be cooked" as well as explicit instructions not to microwave the product and they voluntarily introduced adding cooking instructions on the inner-packaging bags.