How can you be sure microwaved frozen chicken is safe to eat?

Judy Foreman of The Boston Globe says the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends no matter how frozen chicken is cooked, from whatever kind of meal or chicken thingies, use a thermometer to ensure the internal temperature has reached 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Good advice.

So why at the end of the brief article is Roger Fielding, a professor of nutrition at Tufts University, quoted as saying, "Always cut it open and make sure it is white, not pink or translucent. You really have to be careful."

Bad advice.

What you really have to be careful about is taking food safety advice from nutrition professors at Tufts University.

Color is a lousy indicator. Use a digital, tip-sensitive thermometer.

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.