At least one person has died and more than 200 children have been poisoned in an ongoing salmonella outbreak in the UK linked to cheap breaded chicken products containing Polish poultry.
The first cases of the outbreak date back to January 2020 but cases continue to be reported. So far 480 cases of the food poisoning bug salmonella enteritidis have been recorded, of which 44% were in children aged 16 or under.
The Food Standards Agency, which covers England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and Food Standards Scotland have issued a series of recalls for suspect processed chicken that has been available at Sainsbury, Morrisons Lidl, Aldi, and Iceland.
The latest recalls, announced on Friday, include SFC Chicken Poppets and Take Home Boneless Bucket, which have been available at Sainsbury’s and Morrisons, and Vestey Foods Chick Inn 32 Jumbo Chicken Nuggets, which have been sold at Heron Food stores and B&M shops.
Earlier recalls included Lidl’s Red Hen Breaded Chicken Nuggets; Aldi’s Roosters Breaded Poppin Chicken, and Iceland’s Chip Shop Curry Chicken Breast Toppers. Many of these products are marketed as affordable family food.
The FSA has launched an investigation into two strains of salmonella in frozen raw breaded chicken in these products. It has confirmed that the salmonella originated in Poland and it is trying to identify the Polish farm or farms involved.
An FSA spokesperson said: “Investigations have been and continue to be undertaken back to farm level in Poland. While some batches of these poultry products share some common food operators in the food chain, more than one supplier has been identified and multiple farm level producers have also been identified. Investigations are ongoing in Poland to identify which farm-level sources have led to the outbreaks.”
Figures from Public Health England (PHE) show that more than a third of the cases were so serious that hospital treatment was required. Salmonella was recorded as a contributory cause of death in at least one case.
A further four infected people have also died, but it not known whether salmonella was listed as a cause of death in these cases.
PHE has refused to give specific details of the age, gender, and locations of the cases or deaths, but it is known that 57% of the victims were men.
Saheer Gharbia, the head of the gastrointestinal pathogens unit of PHE’s National Infection Service, said: “Cases continue to be reported, albeit at lower levels than last year, following the control measures taken to date.
“Salmonella generally causes a mild illness, although vulnerable groups like children under five years, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems may experience more severe illness and may require hospitalisation.
“Symptoms of a salmonella infection include diarrhoea, stomach cramps and sometimes vomiting and fever. Anyone who is concerned about symptoms should contact their GP or out-of-hours service in the first instance.”
Colin Sullivan, the FSA’s chief operating officer, said: “Our advice is to always take care when storing, handling and cooking these types of frozen breaded chicken products to help reduce the risk of food poisoning to you and your family.”
He added: “You should always check the cooking instructions on food packaging, as different brands of the same product might have different instructions. Cooking food at the right temperature and for the correct length of time will ensure that any harmful bacteria are killed.”