ConAgra recalls pot pies as Salmonella cases rise

Oct 12, 2007 (CIDRAP News) – ConAgra yesterday recalled all of its pot pie varieties, including beef, as the number of people sickened in a Salmonella outbreak that health officials say may be linked to some of the products rose to 165 in 31 states.

Investigators have not found the outbreak strain at the company's Marshall, Mo., factory or in any product samples, but ConAgra, in a statement yesterday, said it recalled the products to make it more clear to consumers that they should not eat them. On Oct 9, when ConAgra issued its first consumer advisory, it advised retail stores not to sell its chicken or turkey pot pies and recommended that consumers refrain from eating them while federal officials investigated.

The outbreak is believed to be linked to chicken and turkey pot pies, but the company said the beef variety was included in the recall to simplify the message for consumers.

Affected products have the establishment code "P9" or "Est. 1059" printed on the side of the package, according to a statement yesterday from the US Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). They include Banquet pot pies and the following brands: Albertson's, Hill Country Fare, Food Lion, Great Value, Kirkwood, Kroger, Meijer, and Western Family. The products were distributed throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, and the Caribbean islands.

Health officials recently approached ConAgra with their suspicions that several clusters of Salmonella infections were linked to the company's chicken and turkey pot pies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is coordinating a case-control study that has associated Banquet pot pies with the Salmonella cases.

The CDC has said that the outbreak involves Salmonella enterica serotype I,4,[5],12:i:-, and as of yesterday it had collected at least 165 matching isolates from case-patients. The outbreak began in January and appears to be ongoing, the agency reported.

The CDC said at least 30 people have been hospitalized. Salmonellosis typically causes fever and nonbloody diarrhea that resolves within a week.

ConAgra, in its initial public health advisory, said it believed the illnesses were probably due to consumer undercooking of the products. Microwave ovens vary in strength and can cook products unevenly.

The company said that before returning the product to the market, it will revise cooking directions on packages to clarify safe preparation steps.

Two other Salmonella outbreaks in recent years were also linked to undercooked frozen chicken products, one in 2005 and one in 2006. Both involved breaded, prebrowned, individually wrapped chicken entrees. During those outbreaks, health officials pointed out that Salmonella was not considered an adulterant in such products and that raw poultry products must be cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F to kill the pathogen.

See also:

Oct 11 ConAgra press release

Oct 11 FSIS recall notice

Oct 11 CDC Salmonella update
http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/4512eyeminus.html

Oct 10 CIDRAP News story "Pot pies suspected in 30-state Salmonella outbreak"

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