The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) division of the USDA has issued a public health alert for frozen raw, breaded, pre-browned, and stuffed chicken products. These items may be labeled “chicken cordon bleu”, chicken with “broccoli and cheese”, or “chicken Kiev”. FSIS along with the CDC is investigating an outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis. They suspect that there may be a link between the chicken products and this illness cluster. Illnesses were reported between February 21, 2021 and May 7, 2021. According to the FSIS announcement, “the Minnesota Department of Agriculture collected frozen, raw, breaded, stuffed chicken products from a retail store for testing. The raw product samples tested positive for the outbreak strain of Salmonella Enteritidis. At this time, the production lots tested in Minnesota are not known to have been purchased by any of the case patients. FSIS has not received any purchase documentation, shopper records, or other traceable information at this time.” Because they don’t have enough information to narrow down the source, no recall orders have been issued.
Improper Cooking Could be Culprit
FSIS believes that a major contributor to the outbreak could be improper cooking. “Many of these stuffed chicken products were labeled with instructions identifying that the product was uncooked (raw). The labels also identified cooking instructions for preparation in an oven. Some of the patients reported that they did not follow the cooking instructions and reported microwaving the product, cooking it in an air fryer or cooking it in the oven for less than the recommended time and without using a meat thermometer to confirm the recommended temperature was achieved. Thus, FSIS advises all consumers that particular attention needs to be taken to safely prepare and cook these frozen, raw poultry products to a temperature of 165 F. The only way to confirm raw poultry products are cooked to a temperature high enough to kill harmful bacteria is to use a food thermometer that measures internal temperature, as indicated in this chart. Additionally, FSIS advises all consumers to keep raw poultry away from other food that will not be cooked. Use one cutting board for raw poultry and a separate one for fresh produce and cooked foods.”