Consumers cause own food poisoning: study of chicken nuggets

B.C. Centre for Disease Control warns people to cook frozen nuggets, strips thoroughly. Consumers don't know chicken is raw.

Consumers are being warned to cook frozen chicken nuggets thoroughly after health authorities examined cases of food poisoning.

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control is cautioning people to follow the cooking instructions on the boxes.

"To the average consumer, some frozen nuggets and strips look pre-cooked because a par-frying process browns the outside," said Laura MacDougall from the centre.

"But most are still raw inside and need to be thoroughly cooked."

A study by the centre and Health Canada discovered a link between salmonella infections and eating raw or undercooked chicken nuggets and chicken strips. The study is published in the June issue of the Journal of Food Protection.

Salmonella are bacteria that can cause an infection of the gastrointestinal tract. Symptoms, such as severe diarrhea, fever and vomiting, can last for days.

The study found:

  • one-third of people surveyed thought the products were pre-cooked, when they were made from raw chicken;
  • many reported washing their hands less often after handling frozen chicken compared to handling fresh chicken;
  • 30 per cent reported using a microwave to cook these products when microwaves aren't recommended for cooking raw chicken because it can cook unevenly.

The centre has made several recommendations:

  • cook frozen chicken nuggets and strips in a conventional oven;
  • wash hands after handling them;
  • save the cooking instructions off the box.

Labelling requirements are being amended to require that packages clearly state whether a product is raw or uncooked.