‘RAW’ in 3-inch letters on front of raw, frozen, breaded chicken thingies

That’s what a frustrated Kirk Smith, head of the foodborne disease unit of the Minnesota Department of Health, suggested to USA Today today as he described how people are still getting sick with Salmonella by microwaving raw, frozen, breaded chicken, despite the lack of microwave instructions.

"We wish the labels would be even more emphatic. … Maybe if on the front of the package there were 3-inch letters — RAW — who knows?"

Minnesota health officials met with producers of chicken products and were told that precooking wasn’t an option because it has an effect on the texture and appearance of the chicken.

A table of the relevant outbreaks is available at http://www.foodsafety.ksu.edu/en/article-details.php?a=3&c=32&sc=419&id=1245

and below.

Smith was also lead author on a paper describing previous outbreaks in the October issue of the Journal of Food Protection. It’s below.

Outbreaks of Salmonellosis in Minnesota (1998 through 2006) associated with frozen, microwaveable, breaded, stuffed chicken products
Journal of Food Protection, Vol 71, No 10, pp. 2153-2160(8)
Smith, Kirk E.; Medus, Carlota; Meyer, Stephanie D.; Boxrud, David J.; Leano, Fe; Hedberg, Craig W.; Elfering, Kevin; Braymen, C

From 1998 through 2006, four outbreaks of salmonellosis associated with raw, frozen, microwaveable, breaded, prebrowned, stuffed chicken products were identified in Minnesota. In 1998, 33 Salmonella Typhimurium cases were associated with a single brand of Chicken Kiev. In 2005, four Salmonella Heidelberg cases were associated with a different brand and variety (Chicken Broccoli and Cheese). From 2005 to 2006, 27 Salmonella Enteritidis cases were associated with multiple varieties of product, predominately of the same brand involved in the 1998 outbreak. In 2006, three Salmonella Typhimurium cases were associated with the same brand of product involved in the 2005 Salmonella Heidelberg outbreak. The outbreak serotype and pulsed-field gel electrophoresis subtype of Salmonella were isolated from product in each outbreak. In these outbreaks, most individuals affected thought that the product was precooked due to its breaded and prebrowned nature, most used a microwave oven, most did not follow package cooking instructions, and none took the internal temperature of the cooked product. Similar to previous salmonellosis outbreaks associated with raw, breaded chicken nuggets or strips in Canada and Australia, inadequate labeling, consumer responses to labeling, and microwave cooking were the key factors in the occurrence of these outbreaks. Modification of labels, verification of cooking instructions by the manufacturer, and notifications to alert the public that these products contain raw poultry, implemented because of the first two outbreaks, did not prevent the other outbreaks. Microwave cooking is not recommended as a preparation method for these types of products, unless they are precooked or irradiated prior to sale.