Salmonella Cases Linked To Raw, Frozen Chicken Entrees

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State health and agriculture officials said today that recent cases of salmonellosis in Minnesota have been linked to raw, frozen, breaded and pre-browned, stuffed chicken entrees. The implicated product is Milford Valley Farms Chicken Cordon Bleu and Chicken Kiev. This product is sold at many different grocery store chains.

This is the sixth outbreak of salmonellosis in Minnesota linked to these types of products since 1998. The findings prompted the officials to urge consumers to make sure that all raw poultry products are handled carefully and cooked thoroughly, and to avoid cooking raw chicken products in the microwave because of the risk of undercooking.

Investigators from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) determined that 14 cases of Salmonella infection since July 2008 were due to the same strain of Salmonella. The illnesses occurred in both children and adults; six of the cases were hospitalized but have since recovered.

"Our DNA fingerprinting found that the individuals were sickened by the same strain of Salmonella," said Dr. Kirk Smith, supervisor of the Foodborne Disease Unit at MDH. "The outbreak strain of Salmonella was found in four packages of this product recovered from the homes of some of those who were ill and from grocery stores."

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Salmonella is sometimes present in raw chicken, which is why it is important for consumers to follow safe food-handling practices. This includes cooking all raw poultry products to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit. "The problem arises when consumers don't realize that they are preparing a raw product," according to Dr. Heidi Kassenborg, Dairy and Food Inspection Director for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA).

"The frozen chicken entrees in the outbreaks we've seen in Minnesota are breaded, pre-browned and individually wrapped, so it's likely most ill consumers mistakenly assumed they have been precooked," Kassenborg said.

These types of products previously were marketed as microwaveable. Because of the inherent variability of microwave cooking, using this method to prepare raw frozen product can frequently result in undercooking of the product. Brands of product most commonly available in Minnesota are no longer being marketed as microwaveable. State officials are concerned, however, that consumers are still using microwave ovens for this product, out of habit. "Furthermore, even if you use a conventional oven, you need to check the internal temperature of the product to ensure it is fully cooked," Smith said.

implicated Chicken Cordon Bleu products have code dates of C8121, C126, and C8133 printed on the side of the package, and the implicated Chicken Kiev products have a code date of C149 printed on the side of the package. It's important to note that because Salmonella is not considered an adulterant in raw poultry, no recall is required according to federal guidelines. MDA and MDH officials advise that consumers with these products in their freezers, if they choose to use them, should cook them thoroughly.

Symptoms of salmonellosis include diarrhea, abdominal pain and cramps and fever. Symptoms usually begin within 12 to 72 hours after exposure, but can begin up to a week after exposure. Salmonella infections usually resolve in 5-7 days, but approximately 20 percent of cases identified by MDH require hospitalization. In rare cases, Salmonella infection can lead to death, particularly in the elderly or those with weakened immune systems.

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