The US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) wants to declare that Salmonella be considered a contaminant in breaded, stuffed raw chicken products when the bacteria exceed a very low level.
In a statement released yesterday, the USDA said the determination would build on FSIS' 2022 proposed regulatory framework to reduce poultry-linked Salmonella infections. Since 1998, FSIS has been involved in investigating 14 Salmonella outbreaks and about 200 related illnesses associated with these products, most recently a 2021 outbreak that sickened people in 11 states.
Chicken may appear cooked
Under its proposal, FSIS would sample and test the chicken component of these products before stuffing and breading, considering it contaminated if it tested positive for Salmonella at the low level of 1 colony-forming unit per gram.
If deemed adulterated, "the chicken component represented by the sampled lot would need to be diverted to a use other than breaded stuffed raw chicken products," the notice said.
The products are typically cooked by consumers from a frozen state, which increases the risk.
These products are browned and thus may appear cooked, but the chicken is raw. They are stuffed with ingredients such as raw vegetables, butter, cheese, or meat.
"The products are typically cooked by consumers from a frozen state, which increases the risk of the product not reaching the internal temperature needed to destroy Salmonella," FSIS said. "In addition, it may be difficult for a consumer to determine an accurate internal temperature of these products because they contain multiple ingredients that may cook at different rates."
Over time, labels on these products have changed to better reflect their raw nature and give instructions on their safe preparation, but they continue to be linked to Salmonella outbreaks, said FSIS, which is seeking public comments on its proposal.