Salmonella cases linked to frozen chicken entrees

Apr 22, 2005 (CIDRAP News) – Health officials have warned consumers to make sure they fully cook frozen meat and poultry products, in the wake of several Salmonella infections linked to frozen chicken entrees sold in Minnesota and Michigan.

Four cases of salmonellosis have been linked with frozen, prebrowned stuffed chicken entrees in Minnesota, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) reported in a news release yesterday.

About nine salmonellosis cases associated with similar products have been reported recently in Michigan, according to Steven Cohen, a spokesman for the US Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) in Washington, DC.

"We don't have a recall situation and we don't have an adulteration situation because Salmonella is not an adulterant" on uncooked poultry, Cohen told CIDRAP News yesterday. "We want to remind people to cook [these products] at safe cooking temperatures for poultry."

The entrees implicated in Minnesota were sold at Cub Foods stores under the Cub name, the MDH reported. They were produced at an Illinois plant with the plant code P-1358, which appears on product labels with the USDA inspection logo. Products from the same plant may have been sold by other store chains, officials said.

"While these products are breaded and prebrowned, and so may appear to be precooked, they are in fact still raw and need to be prepared accordingly," Minnesota State Epidemiologist Dr. Harrry Hull said in the news release.

An FSIS statement said consumers heated the products in microwave ovens and might not have realized they contained raw chicken. Such products should be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 165°F, the statement said.

Minnesota investigators determined that at least four cases of salmonellosis from January through March involved the same strain of Salmonella Heidelberg, the MDH said. At least one package of frozen chicken with broccoli and cheese from a Cub store was found to contain S Heidelberg that matched the strain identified in the four illness cases.

Cub voluntarily pulled the implicated product lots from store shelves, the MDH said. Cub officials told MDH they would redesign the labels before putting the products back on shelves.

Cohen said he didn't know which stores in Michigan sold the implicated products. He added that a number of different facilities provided the raw product used in the entrees. The FSIS is investigating "to see if there's anything in the product that was unusual or if time and temperature parameters were adhered to in the entire supply chain," he said.

USDA testing has shown that, on average, about 13% of raw broiler chickens contain Salmonella, according to Cohen. The standard in the USDA's HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) rule is 20%, he said.

He said FSIS plans to look at how frozen chicken entrees are marketed and consider whether the package labeling should be changed to make it clearer that the products are raw.

See also:

Apr 21 FSIS news release
http://www.fsis.usda.gov/News_&_Events/NR_042005_01/index.asp

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