Are you sure those frozen chicken nuggets are cooked? Are you? Are you? (they won’t answer)

“Doug, I may have sickened Sorenne.”

That’s what Amy told me after serving the kid some chicken nuggets from Coles, one-half of the supermarket duopoly in Australia.

Normally I cook and temp a full chicken and we eat the leftover bits in various meals. But today’s kids, they go for the chicken nuggets so we have some on hand when we’re tired, coles.chicken.breast.nuggets.jan.14lazy or indifferent.

Whether frozen chicken thingies are pre-cooked or raw has been an on-going issue in the U.S and our household since 2007.That’s when we first came up with the experiment described in the abstract below.

Raw, frozen not-ready-to-eat entrees purchased in retail and prepared in the home have been identified as a significant risk factor for salmonellosis. From 1998 to 2008, eight separate outbreaks have implicated undercooked chicken nuggets, chicken strips, and stuffed chicken entrees. In each outbreak, affected individuals prepared entrées in a microwave oven, did not follow recommended cooking instructions, and failed to take the internal temperature of the cooked product. A survey of U.S. grocery stores in 2008 revealed manufacturers fail to provide consumers clear and concise preparation instructions.

Amy recooked the chicken thingies and ensured safety with a tip-sensitive digital thermometer.

I looked at the box (right, exactly as shown) and there was no indication whether the nuggets were cooked to a safe temp and then frozen, or frozen raw.

So I called Coles customer service Friday afternoon; that is why there is a customer service number on the box.

The woman was courteous, left me on hold for a few minutes, and had no clue about my question and couldn’t find the information

She said with the long weekend and all, they’d probably back to me Tuesday.

It’s Tuesday afternoon here – nothing.

Maybe Coles’ general manager, Jackie Healing, who will represent Australia at the Global Food Safety Conference in the U.S. next month can answer. Maybe someone there can ask her why the labels on frozen chicken thingies in Australia suck.

Self-reported and observed behavior of primary meal preparers and adolescents during preparation of frozen, uncooked, breaded chicken products


British Food Journal, Vol 111, Issue 9, p 915-929

Sarah DeDonder, Casey J. Jacob, Brae V. Surgeoner, Benjamin Chapman, Randall Phebus, Douglas A. Powell;jsessionid=6146E6AFABCC349C376B7E55A3866D4A?contentType=Article&contentId=1811820


Purpose – The purpose of the present study was to observe the preparation practices of both adult and young consumers using frozen, uncooked, breaded chicken products, which were previously involved in outbreaks linked to consumer mishandling. The study also sought to observe behaviors of adolescents as home food preparers. Finally, the study aimed to compare food handler behaviors with those prescribed on product labels.

Design/methodology/approach – The study sought, through video observation and self-report surveys, to determine if differences exist between consumers’ intent and actual behavior.

Findings – A survey study of consumer reactions to safe food-handling labels on raw meat and poultry products suggested that instructions for safe handling found on labels had only chicken.nugget.jan.14limited influence on consumer practices. The labels studied by these researchers were found on the packaging of chicken products examined in the current study alongside step-by-step cooking instructions. Observational techniques, as mentioned above, provide a different perception of consumer behaviors.

Originality/value – This paper finds areas that have not been studied in previous observational research and is an excellent addition to existing literature.

Is food safety suffering because of Australian grocery duopoly?

Food safety is always the top priority of a retailer – when talking to the press. It’s usually different on the ground.

A reader says quality assurance staff at many food providers are being sacrificed for the bottom line, insisted upon by the two primary food retailers in Australia – Coles and Woolworths.

According to The Age (the newspaper in Melbourne) suppliers to Woolworths claim they have been given two weeks to cut their prices by up to 10 per cent or have their goods removed from shelves — with no commitment from the supermarket giant to lower prices to consumers.

The squeeze on suppliers — described by one of them as "the most brutal negotiations… in my three decades in the industry" — is being mounted by Woolworths to help fund its price war with Coles.

The primary beneficiary of this price war appears to be the media, with fancy adverts popping up all over.

Woolworths spokeswoman Claire Kimball said there was no two-week completion cut-off in its negotiations and "nothing unusual happening at the moment … When we put our position to vendors we often ask them to come back to us in two weeks with their response. However it is a negotiation and this often necessitates ongoing discussions."

Memo to Australian retailers: provide sanitizing wipes in stores or pay to clean my shorts

This is going to be transformed into dinner in about 12 hours, traditional comfort food as the people of Brisbane bundle up with lows as low as 59F and highs of only 69F with rain (people are dressed like it was Feb. in Saskatoon).

But when I picked the bird out of the cooler case yesterday, blood ran down my hand. I looked for something to help clean up the mess and could only find my shorts.

The same thing happened a few weeks ago with some marked-down packaged chicken pieces. I happened to pick a checkout aisle that was being manned by the manager. I asked Mr. Megalomart Manager if he had something form me to wipe my hands on.


I asked about the bloody drippings now on the checkout conveyor. He looked around but couldn’t find the sanitizing solution he insisted was at every checkout.

I said, in the U.S. and Canada, it has become routine to find disposable sanitizing wipes not only near the meat counter, but any raw product such as produce, along with a variety of contraptions and wipes for sanitizing shopping carts.

Manager thought the wipes were a decent idea; they had a weekly food safety meeting and he’d bring it up with corporate.

Corporate trashed the idea because of cost and waste.

Something to keep in mind next time a vp of something proclaims, “food safety is our top priority.”

Coles cashes in on chicken myth; responding to consumer perceptions rather than leading

An Australian supermarket campaign promoting hormone-free chicken has been called dodgy by a leading consumer watchdog.

In-the-better-late-than-never category, Australians are finally speaking out about a Coles Supermarkets advertising promo that markets fear rather than food safety.

According to industry groups and consumer watchdog Choice the supermarket giant is trying to capitalize on the urban myth that chickens are given hormones to speed growth.

Adding hormones to Australian poultry was outlawed in the early 1960s but the myth of pumped-up chickens has persisted, said Dr Andreas Dubs, the executive director of the Australian Chicken Meat Federation.

Choice spokesman Christopher Zinn said,

"You can’t have hormone-free chicken unless there are chickens that are pumped up on hormones. I think it’s a little dodgy. It’s true, but it’s like saying it’s plutonium-free or cyanide-free because it’s suggesting that anything that doesn’t have that label on it might have that."

A Coles spokesman said the supermarket was just countering the myth.

"Chicken in Australia has not been treated with hormones for over 40 years. However, there is still a widespread misconception among customers that they do. In fact in July last year, chicken producer Steggles commissioned a Newspoll study among 1000 people that showed that 76 per cent still believed that hormones and/or steroids were used in chicken production."

So why isn’t Coles leading the formation of public perception instead of blindly following? Because there’s a buck to be made.

Market food safety rather than fear

Coles Supermarkets is an Australian supermarket chain owned by Wesfarmers. It has 742 stores nationally and more than 93,000 employees. Coles currently has the second-largest market share behind Woolworths Supermarkets.

Coles is now using celebrity chef thingy Curtis Stone to push its ‘No Bull’ campaign, which proclaims all beef sold at Coles is free of hormone growth promotants, or HGPs – supplements of naturally occurring hormones that reduce farming costs because they cause cattle to produce more beef from less feed.

Similar marketing claims have made by Whole Foods and Chipotle in the U.S., both which suck at food safety. Tyson tried it with antimicrobials and was told by a judge to stop because of the bull involved.

Meat and Livestock Australia, which acts on behalf of 47,000 meat producers, said Coles’ marketing strategy could frighten consumers into thinking beef from cattle raised on growth-promoting hormones was unsafe, despite years of scientific testing showing it posed no risk.

The group told The Sunday Age it was too early to tell if customers had stopped buying beef from retailers other than Coles, but if the industry was forced to stop using hormones due to unwarranted fear, ramifications could be widespread.

Victorian Farmers Federation president Andrew Broad said, “They’re creating a monster in the mind of consumers that this is bad … when the reality is there are no health risks with HGPs. The campaign implies that there’s some chemical being pumped into the beef, which is just a nonsense.”

Never go with the no-risk message. There are always risks, but these are miniscule compared with the risks of dangerous microorganisms associated with beef. I’m still waiting for someone to step up and market microbial food safety – so there’s fewer sick people out there.

Simon Berger of Woolworths, rightly dismissed the campaign as “a supermarket gimmick that will be bad for the environment and bad for Australian farmers,” and that it would not follow Coles’ hucksterism.

“We have absolute confidence in the Australian beef industry … We have no plans to dictate to them how it’s produced. Removing technology means you need more cattle, eating more food, on more land, producing more methane over more time to produce the same beef. Someone will pay for that – either farmers or customers, as well as the environment.”

Coles spokesman Jim Cooper defended the campaign, and stressed that Coles wasn’t saying HGP-raised beef was unsafe, it was saying that HGP-free beef was of a higher quality and tasted better, adding, “We are doing what we need to do to improve the quality of beef we sell to customers and that’s all this is about for us.”

But nothing to improve the microbial safety of beef Coles sells to consumers.

CSIRO Professor Alan Bell confirmed there was no proof that HGPs in beef posed a health threat to consumers. But a recent CSIRO study, published in the journal Animal Production Science, supports Coles’ assertion that HGP-free beef is more tender. The study found the hormones had a ”negative influence” on tenderness, taste and quality.

HGPs have been used in Australia since 1979, and about 40 per cent of cattle are now implanted with slow-release HGPs, which add an estimated $210 million in production gains to the Australian beef industry each year.

The group said the amount of hormones found in HGP-raised beef was far lower than the level of hormones naturally occurring in many foods. One egg contained about the same amount of estrogen as 77 kilograms of beef.