Salmonella cases in Minn. linked to raw, frozen chicken entrees; at least 14 sick

The Minnesota folks are really good at focusing on raw, frozen, chicken thingies during outbreaks of foodborne illness.

And once again, they’ve cracked the case.

(these aren’t the products implicated, below, right, but an example of the raw and fully cooked products available at retail)

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. …

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.

We’ve done some research on this that is making its way through the peer-review process. But this is what was presented at the International Association for Food Protection annual meeting in Aug. 2008.


Purpose – This study used a novel video capture system to observe the
food preparation practices of 41 consumers – 21 primary meal preparers
and 20 adolescents – in a mock domestic kitchen using uncooked, frozen,
breaded chicken products, and to determine if differences exist between
consumers’ reported safe food handling practices and actual food
handling behavior as prescribed on current product labels.

Design/methodology/approach – A convenience sample was utilized and all
participants were video-recorded preparing food in one-of-two model
kitchens at Kansas State University. Participants were asked to complete
a survey reporting food handling behaviors that would be typical of
their own home kitchen.

Findings – Differences between self-reported and observed food safety
behaviors were seen across both groups of consumers. Many participants
reported owning a food thermometer (73 per cent) and indicated using one
when cooking raw, breaded chicken entrées (19.5 per cent); however, only
five participants were observed measuring the final internal temperature
with a food thermometer despite instructions on the product packaging to
do so; only three used the thermometer correctly.

Significance – Data collected through direct observation more accurately
reflects consumer food handling behaviors than data collected through
self-reported surveys, and label instructions are rarely followed.

Originality/value – This study contributes to the overall understanding
of consumer behaviors associated with consumers’ intentions and actual
behaviors while preparing meat and poultry products, such as frozen,
uncooked, breaded chicken products.


Where frozen and canned vegetables come from: 2001

Another blast from the past, with iFSN’s Andrew Reece editing together some old video on food safety in the Ontario processing vegetable industry. Newbie student Ben Chapman worked the camera and provided some narration, as we toured farms and processing facilities in Ontario.

Posers like Gordon Ramsey can gas on all they like about the political food flavor of the day, producers and processors supply the bulk of food ingredients that are a cornerstone of a healthy and abundant diet.

Gordon Ramsey has a problem with food processing

Chef Gordon Ramsay told the BBC that British restaurants should be fined if they serve fruit and vegetables which are not in season, and that fruit and vegetables should be locally-sourced and only on menus when in season.

"There should be stringent laws, licensing laws, to make sure produce is only used in season and season only. If we don’t restrict our movements within this industry of seasonal-produce only, then the whole thing will spiral out of control."

Ramsay also went on to vent his anger at fellow TV chef Delia Smith, whose latest book, How to Cheat at Cooking, encourages people to mix together ready-made food rather than cook from scratch if they are short of time or on a tight budget, adding,

"I would expect students struggling on £15 a week to survive eating from a can but the nation’s favourite, all-time icon reducing us down to using frozen, canned food. It’s an insult. And it makes our lives, from a chef’s point of view, a lot harder. Here we are trying to establish a reputation across the world for this country’s food and along comes Delia and tips it out of a can. That hurts."

Me, I’m a fan of freezing, canning, fresh and whatever. It’s about mixing it up. Frozen corn, peas (left) and others, canned tomatoes and sauces, the garden out back, Amy and I got it all (and enjoyed our first spinach and lettuce salad of the season this evening, with frozen scallops, which don’t grow so well in Manhattan — Kansas).

I’ll have more to say about this in the next couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, Oxfam’s head of research, Duncan Green, said he was sure "the million farmers in east Africa who rely on exporting their goods to scrape a living would see Gordon Ramsay’s assertions as a recipe for disaster."

Florida restaurant fined for keeping bread in bathroom

Eyewitness News in Sanford, Florida discovered a popular fast food restaurant, Checker’s. that’s accused of storing food on the floor inside the men’s restroom. The food that was left on the floor in the restroom was just one of several critical violations health inspectors found at a Checkers location in Sanford.

Employees at the Checkers store on South French Avenue at West 15th Street apparently decided it was okay to store buns for their hamburgers inside a not-so-clean men’s room.

Tuesday, it appeared they had changed the policy, but not before racking up a dozen health code violations.

Raw frozen chicken thingies — don’t use a microwave

Julie Schmit of USA Today reports that federal food-safety officials are considering whether labels on some frozen chicken products adequately inform consumers that the chicken is raw and provide sufficient cooking instructions.

Minnesota health officials said that stuffed chicken entrees — which look cooked because they’re breaded and prebrowned so that the breading sticks — are blamed for five salmonella outbreaks since 1998 that sickened 71 people.

The latest outbreak, in Minnesota in March, occurred even though the products’ labels changed more than a year ago to more explicitly state that the chicken is uncooked. "

David Goldman, assistant administrator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said,

"We’ve done everything we think is appropriate, but if consumer behavior hasn’t changed, we have to deal with that."

Carlota Medus, epidemiologist with the Minnesota Department of Health, said, "They look precooked, plus they are marketed as convenience foods," and that consumers may think the chicken is cooked and only reheat it, which doesn’t kill bacteria.

Of the four consumers sickened in the recent outbreak, two thought the product was precooked. Three used a microwave, even though the label warns not to, Medus says. Conventional oven-cooking is advised because they cook more uniformly than microwaves.

The outbreak was linked to chicken cordon bleu and chicken breast stuffed with cheese from Serenade Foods. Serenade spokeswoman Janelle Deatsman said,

"We think it’s important consumers follow label directions."

Do people read instructions, and are the instructions understood? Are the instructions in multiple languages? Does understanding translate into safe handling behavior?

Labelling frozen raw chicken thingies

There are hundreds of frozen products available at retail containing potentially hazardous food; some are fully cooked; some aren’t.

This is one example. The Kroger Chicken Kiev label states it’s "Microwavable," but also says, UNCOOKED; Keep Frozen; Cook to an Internal Temperature of 165F as measured by a thermometer."

On the back, the microwave instructions say the time estimates are for a 1,000 W microwave, which is more specific than the high, medium or low on the ConAgra Banquet pot pies. I found out our microwave is 1150 W, but don’t know if that is high, medium or low.