Frozen raw breaded chicken products continue to be identified as a source of Salmonella infection in Canada. In the last 10 years the incidence of Salmonella illness in Canada has steadily increased. This increase has been driven by Salmonella enteritidis, the most common strain of Salmonella in the food supply that is often associated with poultry.
For this reason, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and industry at large are actively working 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.
CFIA says that 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.
CFIA is asking poultry processors to identify Salmonella as a health hazard and to implement changes in order to produce an end product that reduces Salmonella to below a detectable amount. The industry has been allowed a 12-month implementation period, beginning immediately, to put the proposed changes in place.
Previous measures were implemented in 2015 when industry voluntarily developed additional labelling 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.