Sorry Canada, we sent you Salmonella – Tainted Chicken and Turkey
The Public Health Agency of Canada is collaborating with provincial public health partners, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Health Canada to investigate an outbreak of Salmonella infections.
Based on the investigation findings to date, exposure to raw turkey and raw chicken products has been identified as the likely source of the outbreak. Many of the individuals who became sick reported eating different types of turkey and chicken products before their illnesses occurred.
Almost half of the illnesses included in this active investigation occurred in October and November 2018. These illnesses are genetically related to illnesses that date back to 2017. The outbreak appears to be ongoing, as illnesses continue to be reported to the Public Health Agency of Canada.
Salmonella bacteria are commonly found in raw or undercooked poultry like turkey or chicken. The bacteria are most-often transmitted to people when they improperly handle, eat or cook contaminated foods.
This outbreak is a reminder of the importance of using safe food handling practices if you are preparing, cooking, cleaning or storing raw turkey and raw chicken food products. These raw products can have bacteria that can easily be spread around food preparation areas and can make you sick if safe food-handling practices are not properly followed.
Canadians across the country are reminded to always handle raw turkey and raw chicken carefully, and to cook it thoroughly to prevent food-related illnesses like Salmonella. The Public Health Agency of Canada is not advising that consumers avoid eating properly cooked turkey or chicken products, nor is it advising retailers to stop selling raw turkey and raw chicken products.
This public health notice is being issued to inform Canadians of the investigation findings to date and to share important safe food-handling practices to help prevent further Salmonella infections. This notice will be updated as the investigation evolves.
As of December 21, 2018, there have been 22 confirmed cases of Salmonella Reading illness investigated in the following provinces: British Columbia (9), Alberta (7), Manitoba (5), and New Brunswick (1). Individuals became sick between April 2017 and mid-November 2018. Five individuals have been hospitalized. One individual has died. Individuals who became ill are between 0 and 93 years of age. The majority of cases (64%) are female.
The collaborative outbreak investigation was initiated due to an increase of Salmonella Reading illnesses that occurred in October and November 2018. Through the use of a laboratory method called whole genome sequencing, some Salmonella illnesses dating back to 2017 were identified to have the same genetic strain as the illnesses that occurred in October and November 2018. Almost half of the illnesses under investigation occurred in October and November 2018.
It is possible that more recent illnesses may be reported in the outbreak because there is a period of time between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported to public health officials. This period of time is called the case reporting delay. In national Salmonella outbreak investigations, the case reporting delay is usually between 5 and 6 weeks.4
The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (U.S. CDC) is also investigating similar Salmonella illnesses in several states that have been linked to raw turkey exposure. There have been some turkey products recalled in the U.S. that were associated with this outbreak. These products were not imported or distributed in the Canadian marketplace.
The CFIA is collaborating with the overall outbreak investigation and is liaising with the U.S. Department of Agriculture regarding their investigation into the potential turkey source. The CFIA will issue food recall warnings to inform Canadians if any products recalled in the U.S. were imported in Canada.