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New regulations for frozen breaded chicken aim to reduce salmonella cases



New food industry regulations for frozen breaded chicken start Monday with the aim of reducing the number of recalls and salmonella cases in Canada.

The new laws require food producers to have salmonella "below detectable levels," which means most producers will simply cook the meat first to destroy the bacteria.

Food producers have had nine months to adjust to new rules from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, which take effect April 1.

Prof. Keith Warriner, who lectures on food safety at the University of Guelph, told CTVNews.ca that partially-cooked chicken products like nuggets and strips could be to blame for the increasing number of salmonella cases because consumers are not cooking them long enough.

“We have to make sure that consumers know that they’re raw. Part-cooked should be treated like raw chicken and thoroughly cooked,” Prof. Warriner told CTVNews.ca.

“People don’t cook as much, consumers assume when they see a food product it’s safe, which is reasonable. Mothers or fathers want to get food to hungry children quickly.”

These new measures were prompted by the continued link between frozen raw breaded chicken products and outbreaks of food-borne illness, CFIA said in a statement.

The new rules allow food manufacturers to add preservatives approved by Health Canada to reduce the risk of salmonella infection.

It also outlines four options involving better labelling, sampling and testing.

“Regulations are there to take food safety out of consumer’s hands. Even as consumers we have a responsibility,” Warriner said.

A simple $10 meat thermometer can save a life, Prof. Warriner added.

“Only 11 per cent of Canadians have thermometers,” he said.

Food-borne illnesses results in around 105 deaths every year, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Salmonella makes around 87,500 people sick in Canada every year, with around 925 of them hospitalized. The bacteria is also responsible for 17 deaths on average every year.

In the European Union fully cooked chicken products have been law for a “long time”, Prof. Warriner said.

“You could get a lot of kids saying ‘my nuggets taste funny’ if they’re more dry. But not thoroughly cooking is not worth the risk,” he said.