Blame the consumer, U.S.-style; ConAgra says silly things about its pot pies

ConAgra is continuing with its blame-the-consumer strategy when crappy pot pies make people sick with salmonella – like the 30 confirmed ill with Salmonella Chester linked to Marie Callender‘s Cheesy Chicken & Rice frozen meal.

Teresa Paulsen, a spokeswoman for ConAgra, said the company is investigating the contamination, adding,

"At this point, we are looking at an ingredient as the cause since all tests from our production environment have been negative.”

Some of the ingredients, in particular the protein such as the chicken, are precooked before packaging. She said the package has explicit instructions on how to cook the entree in a microwave or oven.

"If it’s cooked according to package instructions, any pathogen would be killed," she said.

Explicit is not the same as practical. No matter how much the Marie Callender name is supposed to fancy things up, it’s still a pot pie tweens toss in the microwave.

How effective are explicit instructions to teenagers? And why are people the critical control point in the frozen chicken thingie food safety system?

Seattle lawyer Bill Marler, who is representing an Oregon man who was hospitalized four days in May after eating one of the implicated pies, said, "You can’t expect the customer to be the kill step.”

A table of frozen, not-ready-to-eat chicken thingy outbreaks is available at:

Why do media care more about SpaghettiOs that haven’t made anyone sick than frozen chicken thingies that have sickened 30 with Salmonella?

SpaghettiOs have far greater cultural resonance than some fancy pants Marie Callender’s frozen dinner thingies. Who didin’t love SpaghettiOs as a kid, like Stay Puft Marshmallows (right, exactly as shown).

It’s the best explanation I have for why the SpaghettiOs story, involving a product which was recalled but has made no one sick, is getting far more media attention than the frozen food – which has made at least 30 people sick and highlights an on-going problem with the frozen, not-ready-to-eat products proliferating at grocery stores.

For Father’s Day, Amy went out for a couple of hours while Sorenne was sleeping and picked up a couple of those Marie Callender frozen pot pies; not the recalled ones but some others. It was a gift.

None of the material provided by ConAgra or state and federal health types has accurately described the product: do these pot pies contain raw ingredients and therefore need to be cooked to a temperature-verified 165 F, and if they do contain raw ingredients, why?

The label on Marie Callender’s Chicken Pot Pie says it’s made from scratch – does that mean all the salmonella and campylobacter is included – and to keep frozen and must be cooked thoroughly.

The box containing the fancy pants pot pie says to microwave in nothing less than an 1100W microwave (if you can figure out where to determine a microwave’s wattage) for a long time. And use a meat thermometer.

I look forward to the publication in a peer-reviewed journal regarding consumers’ response and understanding of the new groovy labels that say use a meat thermometer to verify a pot pie is cooked. I did it, but I’m a nerd (left).

ConAgra, are raw ingredients being used or was this another failure in your awesome HACCP program?

After ConAgra’s Banquet pot pie mess of 2007 which sickened 400, why are these companies still using raw salmonella-stained ingredients in their pot pies, regardless of the fancy pants label.

Politicians don’t help, somehow equating the two incidents and using them for political leverage. Congresswoman Rosa L. DeLauro said Friday, with a straight face.

“These recalls are very disturbing considering that the timeframe in which the SpaghettiOs were produced spans nearly two years. The volume of potentially dangerous products is significant, and it is frightening that millions of children may have unknowingly consumed these recalled products given the popularity of SpaghettiOs among kids. While these recalls and investigations are still ongoing, I look forward to learning from USDA about the circumstances that allowed two years of potentially dangerous foods to enter the market place.”

It was a manufacturing problem that was eventually caught, probably by the company and not the U.S. Department of Agriculture. No one is sick; it’s precautionary. But way to invoke kids and fear.

“This recall, combined with the recall of the Marie Callender’s frozen meals that have sickened over two dozen people in 14 states, serves as a reminder that after we must begin the process of reviewing how the food safety system at USDA should be reformed.”

Political opportunism. What must be reformed is the way companies – and it’s frequently ConAgra – process and produce these frozen chicken dinner thingies and they should stop blaming consumers. Lawsuits and embarrassment work far faster than political change.

We had roast chicken for dinner — the temp was at 165F by the time it was served.

ConAgra frozen chicken thingies in salmonella outbreak – again; 29 sick in 14 states

The Marie Callender’s brand of frozen food seems to be regarded as a little more upscale.

But they can still get poop in their products.

ConAgra is recalling the always classy, Cheesy Chicken and Rice frozen meals, as announced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

That’s because 29 people in 14 U.S. states have been diagnosed with Salmonella Chester over the past couple of months.

Maybe all the sick people independently left the products out for a couple of days, let the cats poop on the counter, and didn’t shower for a week.

Because that is what USDA is saying with its paternalistic reminders for consumers to be the most skilled line of food safety defense.

Maybe consumers should don scuba gear and plug the Gulf oil spoil themselves, or if only consumers took more precautions, bad things wouldn’t happen.

While the recalled products should be safely discarded and not consumed, FSIS would also remind consumers how to safely prepare other, non-recalled frozen entrees. FSIS strongly urges consumers to always follow all cooking and preparation instructions on the label. Special attention to proper heating is important to ensure the entrees are fully cooked and all ingredients reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165°F. Consumers should use a food thermometer to make sure the entrees reach at least 165°F.

These things are frozen products; people pop them in the microwave or cook them in any variety of ways, as we laid out in our peer-reviewed research paper last year, I’ve spoken with ConAgra, I gave a talk from New Zealand (while nude, in bed) for ConAgra’s science board, but they still want to blame consumers for frozen product.

So this multi-billion dollar company gets a bunch of sick people related to their product produced with the highest safety standards, and they tell consumers, do better.

Hopeless. And sorta gross.