Five people are suspected to have died and hundreds more, including children, became seriously ill after eating contaminated chicken imported from Poland.
The meat was turned into cheap frozen nuggets and breaded chicken products sold by major supermarkets across the UK over the past year.
Some 480 people are known to have fallen ill with salmonella poisoning with more than one in three becoming so sick they needed hospital treatment.
The processed chicken products are typically bought by parents as a cheap and easy meal for children. Some 44 per cent of victims were aged 16 or under.
As many as five people have died after eating contaminated chicken from Poland. it comes as customers are being told to avoid eating certain batches of SFC’s Take Home Boneless Bucket product amid concerns it contains salmonella
Significantly, public health watchdogs say the salmonella infection has been recorded as a contributory cause of death in at least one case.
There have been a further four recorded deaths linked to these outbreaks, however it is not clear whether salmonella infection was a factor.
Public Health England refused to give any details on the age, gender or location for this group, potentially leaving bereaved families in the dark about the full circumstances.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has issued a warning over the consumption of two SFC chicken products – which use packaging that mimics KFC – Take Home Boneless Bucket and Chicken Poppets.
There also been a recall of Chick Inn 32 Jumbo Chicken Nuggets, made by Vestey Foods.
The Daily Mail has learned that the chicken used in all of these products came from sources in Poland, which have been associated with two strains of the salmonella food poisoning bug
The SFC products have been on sale for months through both Sainsbury’s and Morrisons, while the Vestey nuggets have been sold through hundreds of Heron Foods stores, B&M, and B&M Express.
These recalls are linked to a raft of others involving similar products sold by Lidl, Aldi and Iceland, which were recalled last October.
The Daily Mail has learned that the chicken used in all of these products came from sources in Poland, which have been associated with two strains of the salmonella food poisoning bug.
A number of European countries, including Ireland, have issued nearly 100 warnings about salmonella in chilled and frozen poultry from Poland since the beginning of last year.
It is thought hundreds – or possibly thousands – of cases of illness have occurred across the Continent over the past year.
The revelations raise serious questions about Britain’s food safety and surveillance system and whether the outbreak and deaths could have been prevented.
There also been a recall of Chick Inn 32 Jumbo Chicken Nuggets, made by Vestey Foods
Of the 480 cases in the UK, some 400 were in England, 42 in Scotland, 31 in Wales and seven in Northern Ireland. These figures are likely to be the tip of the iceberg, as many people with less serious symptoms may not have visited their doctor or gone to hospital during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Public Health England (PHE) said cases of sickness caused by salmonella linked to frozen breaded chicken products continue to be reported.
Head of the Gastrointestinal Pathogens Unit of PHE’s National Infection Service, Saheer Gharbia, said: ‘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.’
The FSA together with the public health authorities in Scotland and Wales have warned people not to eat the products at the centre of the latest recall.
They have also issued new safety advice on the handling and cooking of frozen raw breaded chicken products, such nuggets, goujons, dippers, poppers and kievs.
Chief operating officer of the FSA, Colin Sullivan, 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.
‘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.’
SFC, which is based in Merseyside, apologised and said it would like to ‘assure customers of our continuing commitment to the highest standard of quality and safety’.
Vestey, which is based in Croydon, confirmed salmonella has been found in the Chick Inn nuggets.