Chicken Farmers of Canada is set to begin a national Salmonella prevalence survey in the New Year. The main objective is to determine the on-going monitoring and mitigation needs that are appropriate for Canadian chicken farms in the future. Here is some background information about why this decision was made and what the survey will entail.
As mentioned in a previous newsletter, the government, led by the Public Health Agency of Canada, has placed a high priority on reducing Salmonella-related illnesses among Canadians. The priority placed on this issue is based on the increasing rate of illness over the last 10+ years, with several outbreaks of Salmonella illness across the country linked to raw chicken. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) took steps last year to mandate maximum Salmonella levels in frozen raw breaded chicken products. However, the federal government has made clear its concerns about Salmonella in all types of poultry products.
This issue will remain a high priority for government for the foreseeable future, and this is also reflected in Chicken Farmers of Canada’s work, where pathogen reduction was designated as a critical priority for the organization in 2019. As such, much of 2019 was spent working with supply chain members (broiler breeders, hatcheries, and processors) to determine the best way forward for the chicken industry to address this. Each sector is taking additional steps to address pathogen reduction, and for chicken farms, a decision was made in August by the Board of Directors to begin a national Salmonella prevalence survey.
Although there have been Salmonella illnesses of various serotypes, the main culprit has been Salmonella Enteritidis (SE), and this will be the focus of the survey. In addition to determining the extent of monitoring and mitigation needed in the future, this survey will act as a pilot to assess the operational possibilities of future surveillance – this includes laboratory capacity, shipping samples, ability to plan and take samples, and the lab results turn-around time.
The survey will be done on approximately 10% of farms across the country (based on a standardized sample size calculation), with samples being taken in every province throughout the entire year to account for seasonality. Each provincial board will determine the personnel who will be taking the samples and will also be responsible for ensuring confidentiality of data; farms will only be identified by confidential identifiers and only aggregate results will be reported.
For this initial survey, the timing of results will not coincide with the marketing of the surveyed flock. As a result, there will be no required actions for the surveyed flock, but a report will be provided to the farmer which will include recommendations in the case of a positive result.
Another major component of Chicken Farmers of Canada’s work on pathogen reduction involves increased communications to consumers about safe food handling practices. We recognize that farmers and other supply chain members all have a role to play in reducing pathogens, but consumers have an important role at home as well.
Communication efforts will be increasing over the next year to get the message out to Canadians about the importance of properly handling and cooking chicken to avoid any chances of foodborne illness. This will involve increased food safety messages online and through our various social media channels and may also feature on traditional media like radio or TV.
For example, food safety messages will be incorporated into every consumer newsletter that we send out in 2020, which currently reaches an audience of 64,000 Canadians. We’ll also be using infographics, video clips, and short messages to get the word out, so stay tuned to our social media channels and share these with your networks as well.