Changes in processing and labelling of frozen chicken products available to consumers in Vancouver
Background: Between May 2017 and May 2019, 18 Salmonella outbreaks in Canada were linked to raw chicken, resulting in the recall of 13 chicken products. Most of these products contained frozen raw breaded chicken, such as chicken nuggets, chicken fries, and breaded chicken burgers. (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2019) These products are especially risky for consumers because they may appear precooked, resulting in inadequate food safety measures being taken. (Catford, Ganz, & Tamber, 2017). Due to this concern, as of April 1, 2019, all frozen raw breaded chicken product manufacturers are required to follow one of four Salmonella control measures set out by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). The simplest option for processors is to precook their products to destroy Salmonella bacteria and produce a ready-to-eat product. (Government of Canada, Canadian Food Inspection Agency, & Food Safety and Consumer Protection Directorate, 2019a) Methods: Data was collected from all frozen chicken products available at 14 retail locations in Metro Vancouver that were randomly selected in previous studies carried out in 2018 and 2019 by the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) and British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) students. The processing status of the products surveyed in this study (n=466) was compared to those collected in the previous studies done in 2018 and 2019, respectively (n=383; n=415). Other information collected included whether product packaging contained statements of internal temperature, requirements for thermometer use, and additional food safety instructions. Data on these parameters collected in the current study (n=466) were compared to similar data collected in 2008 (n=24) and in 2018 (n=67). Photos were taken of all product labels and relevant data from the photos was compiled in Microsoft Excel. Statistical analyses were done using chi-square tests performed using NCSS 2019 software. Results: The proportion of surveyed frozen chicken products that were cooked as opposed to raw increased from 38% in 2018 to 41% in 2019 to 69% in 2020. The proportion of products containing statements regarding required internal temperatures increased from 58% in 2008 to 96% in 2018 and then decreased to 86% in 2020. 0%, 4.5%, and 1.7% of products surveyed in 2008, 2018, and 2020, respectively, included an indication to use a food thermometer. 79%, 57%, and 25% of products surveyed in the same years included additional food safety statements. Conclusions: This study showed that the ratio of cooked to uncooked frozen chicken products available to consumers in the Metro Vancouver area has increased since the CFIA’s Salmonella control measure requirements for frozen breaded chicken manufacturers were implemented in 2019. The 28% and 26% increase since 2018 and 2019, respectively, suggests that many frozen chicken product manufacturers are complying with the CFIA requirements by using a validated cook process to reduce Salmonella in their products. This study also showed that, since 2019, there has been a significant decline in the proportion of frozen chicken products that contain information about internal cooking temperatures and additional food safety information on their packaging.