Public Health Notice — Outbreak of Salmonella illnesses linked to raw turkey and raw chicken

January 31, 2019 — Update

This update reflects 39 illnesses that have been added to the outbreak investigation. In Canada, there are now 72 illnesses under investigation. The Public Health Agency of Canada continues to remind Canadians to always handle raw turkey and raw chicken carefully, and to cook it thoroughly to prevent food-related illnesses like Salmonella.

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Why should you take note

The Public Health Agency of Canada is collaborating with provincial and territorial 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.

Twenty-five of the 72 illnesses included in this active investigation occurred between October 2018 and January 2019. These 25 illnesses are genetically related to another 47 illnesses that occurred between April 2017 and September 2018. The outbreak appears to be ongoing, as recent 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 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.

Investigation summary

As of January 31, 2019, there have been 72 confirmed cases of Salmonella Reading illness investigated in the following provinces and territories: British Columbia (20), Alberta (24), Saskatchewan (6), Manitoba (13), Ontario (6), New Brunswick (1), Northwest Territories (1), and Nunavut (1). Individuals became sick between April 2017 and early January 2019. Eighteen individuals have been hospitalized. One individual has died. Individuals who became ill are between 0 and 96 years of age. The majority of cases (55%) are female.

The collaborative outbreak investigation was initiated due to an increase of Salmonella Reading illnesses that occurred in October and November 2018. Cases have continued to be reported since the investigation was initiated. 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 late 2018. Many of the illnesses under investigation occurred between October 2018 and January 2019.

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.

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.

Who is most at risk

Anyone can become sick with a Salmonella infection, but infants, children, seniors and those with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of serious illness because their immune systems are more fragile.

Most people who become ill from a Salmonella infection will recover fully after a few days. It is possible for some people to be infected with the bacteria and to not get sick or show any symptoms, but to still be able to spread the infection to others.

What should you do to protect your health

Raw turkey and raw chicken products carrying Salmonella may look, smell and taste normal, so it’s important to always follow safe food-handling tips if you are buying, chilling, thawing, cleaning, cooking and storing any type of raw poultry food products.

The Public Health Agency of Canada is reminding Canadians to always handle raw turkey and raw chicken carefully, and to cook it thoroughly to prevent food-related illnesses like Salmonella. You can use the following food safety tips to help protect you and your family:

  • Always wash your hands before and after you touch raw turkey and raw chicken. Wash with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand rub if soap and water are not available.
  • Always cook turkey and chicken products to a safe internal temperature that has been checked using a digital thermometer.
  • Turkey and chicken breasts, as well as ground poultry, including turkey and chicken burgers, should always be cooked to an internal temperature of 74°C (165°F) to kill any harmful bacteria. Whole turkey and chicken should be cooked to an internal temperature of 82°C (180°F).
  • Leftovers should be reheated to 74°C (165°F). Use a digital food thermometer to check, and place it in the thickest part of the food.
  • Thaw frozen raw turkey and raw chicken in the fridge. Thawing raw turkey and raw chicken at room temperature can allow bacteria to grow.
  • Never rinse raw turkey or raw chicken before cooking it because the bacteria can spread wherever the water splashes.
  • Use a separate plate, cutting board, utensils and kitchen tools when preparing raw turkey and raw chicken.
  • Clean everything that has come in contact with raw turkey or raw chicken with a kitchen cleaner or bleach solution and then rinse with water.
    • Kitchen cleaner (follow the instructions on the container)
    • Bleach solution (5 mL household bleach to 750 mL of water)
  • Keep raw turkey and raw chicken away from other food while shopping, storing, repackaging, cooking and serving foods.
  • If you have been diagnosed with a Salmonella infection or any other gastrointestinal illness, do not cook food for other people.
  • Do not feed raw ground turkey or raw ground chicken to your pets. Bacteria like Salmonella in raw pet food can make your pets sick. Your family also can get sick by handling the raw food or by taking care of your pet.
  • For more information, read our poultry safety fact sheet.

Symptoms

Symptoms of a Salmonella infection, called salmonellosis, typically start 6 to 72 hours after exposure to Salmonella bacteria from an infected animal or contaminated product.

Symptoms include:

  • fever
  • chills
  • diarrhea
  • abdominal cramps
  • headache
  • nausea
  • vomiting

These symptoms usually last for four to seven days. In healthy people, salmonellosis often clears up without treatment. In some cases, severe illness and hospitalization may occur. In some cases, antibiotics may be required. People who are infected with Salmonella bacteria can be infectious from several days to several weeks. People who experience symptoms, or who have underlying medical conditions, should contact their health care provider if they suspect they have a Salmonella infection.

What is the Government of Canada doing

The Government of Canada is committed to food safety. The Public Health Agency of Canada leads the human health investigation into an outbreak and is in regular contact with its federal, provincial and territorial partners to monitor the situation and to collaborate on steps to address an outbreak.

Health Canada provides food-related health risk assessments to determine whether the presence of a certain substance or microorganism poses a health risk to consumers.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency conducts food safety investigations into the possible food source of an outbreak.

The Government of Canada will continue to update Canadians if new information related to these investigations becomes available.

Epidemiological information

Figure 1 is an epi curve for this outbreak. This information was used by outbreak investigators to show when illnesses began, when they peaked, and when they trailed off. It can take several weeks from the time a person becomes ill to when the illness is reported and testing confirms a link to the outbreak. Data are available for 72 cases.

Figure 1: Number of people infected with Salmonella Reading

Figure 1: Text description
Table 1 – Number of people confirmed to be infected with Salmonella Reading by week of illness onset or specimen collection
Week of symptom onset or specimen collection Number of cases
2017-04-16 1
2017-04-30 2
2017-05-14 0
2017-05-28 0
2017-06-11 1
2017-06-25 1
2017-07-09 0
2017-07-23 0
2017-08-06 1
2017-08-20 3
2017-09-03 2
2017-09-17 1
2017-10-01 1
2017-10-15 3
2017-10-29 2
2017-11-12 0
2017-11-26 2
2017-12-10 2
2017-12-24 3
2018-01-07 0
2018-01-21 1
2018-02-04 0
2018-02-18 2
2018-03-04 1
2018-03-18 1
2018-04-01 3
2018-04-15 0
2018-04-29 2
2018-05-13 1
2018-05-27 2
2018-06-10 0
2018-06-24 1
2018-07-08 1
2018-07-22 1
2018-08-05 1
2018-08-19 3
2018-09-02 1
2018-09-16 1
2018-09-30 3
2018-10-14 7
2018-10-28 0
2018-11-11 1
2018-11-25 4
2018-12-09 2
2018-12-23 6
2019-01-06 2

Additional information

Media contact

Public Health Agency of Canada
Media Relations
613-957-2983

Public inquiries

Call toll-free: 1-866-225-0709
Email: info@hc-sc.gc.ca

Investigation history

Public Health Notice Update – January 8, 2019

This update reflects 11 additional illnesses that have been reported in the outbreak. In Canada, there are now 33 illnesses under investigation. The Public Health Agency of Canada continues to remind Canadians to always handle raw turkey and raw chicken carefully, and to cook it thoroughly to prevent food-related illnesses like Salmonella.

Why should you take note

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.

Many of the illnesses included in this active investigation occurred between October and December 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 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.

Investigation summary

As of January 8, 2019, there have been 33 confirmed cases of Salmonella Reading illness investigated in the following provinces: British Columbia (9), Alberta (8), Saskatchewan (2), Manitoba (10), Ontario (3), and New Brunswick (1). Individuals became sick between April 2017 and early December 2018. Six individuals have been hospitalized. One individual has died. Individuals who became ill are between 0 and 93 years of age. The majority of cases (55%) are female.

The collaborative outbreak investigation was initiated due to an increase of Salmonella Reading illnesses that occurred in October and November 2018. Cases have continued to be reported since the investigation was initiated. 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 late 2018. Many of the illnesses under investigation occurred between October and December 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.

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.

Public Health Notice - December 21, 2018

Why should you take note

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.

Investigation summary

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.

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.

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