The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) asked poultry industry bigwigs to minimize the level of salmonella in their products.
“In order to keep the population safe, we asked them to strengthen their system, decrease the salmonella load. They have 12 months to comply with it,” said Aline Dimitri, deputy chief food safety officer at the CFIA.
But Keith Warriner, a food safety professor with the University of Guelph, said it’s tough to fully rid chicken of the bacteria. Warriner explained the CFIA and the poultry industry can only do so much and the main responsibility lies with consumers to handle food properly.
CFIA released a statement saying that cases of food-borne illness salmonellosis have been steadily increasing for the past 10 years. There were 7,731 confirmed cases of salmonella illnesses in the country in 2015 according to the most recent data on the Public Health Agency of Canada website.
Salmonella occurs naturally in chicken products and other foods.
Dimitri said the problem isn’t necessarily in the actual products. It’s more about consumers not following instructions. The CFIA specifically refers to frozen raw breaded products such as chicken strips, nuggets and burgers.
“When we’re talking about raw frozen breaded chicken, the issue is not that the product itself is not safe,” Dimitri said. “There are cooking requirements for these products because they are raw and simply frozen. They have to be cooked.”
In 2015, the food agency tried to target the problem by asking the poultry industry to add labels such as “raw” or “must be cooked” on boxes, as well as clear cooking instructions.