Raw, frozen chicken thingies -- do not cook in a microwave

Posted: March 31st, 2008 - 2:18pm by Doug Powell

Should microwaves be used to safely cook or simply reheat food?

Depends.

An outbreak of salmonella in Minnesota last week was once again linked to frozen, raw chicken thingies -- in this case breaded, pre-browned chicken cordon bleu and chicken Kiev produced by Milford Valley Farms.

This is the fifth such outbreak the Minnesota disease detectives have traced to such products in the past decade. Similar outbreaks have been reported in British Columbia and Australia.

Kirk Smith of the Minnesota Department of Health said one of the victims in the current outbreak prepared the frozen entree in a microwave, even though that method of preparation is not recommended on the package.

Because of past outbreaks, the U.S. Department of Agriculture wrote to food processors in 2006, and said,

"While consumers may be directed to cook the products to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit (F), if they are directed to use a cooking method that is not practical or not likely to achieve the necessary level of food safety (e.g., microwaving or cooking frozen product in a toaster oven), the cooking instructions may not be valid."

In response to the current outbreak, USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) issued a public health alert on March 29, 2008, and reminded consumers of the crucial importance of following package instructions for frozen, stuffed raw chicken products and general food safety guidelines when handling and preparing any raw meat or poultry.

"It is especially important that these products be cooked in a conventional oven. All poultry products should be cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165° Fahrenheit as determined by a food thermometer. Using a food thermometer is the only way to know that food has reached a high enough temperature to destroy foodborne bacteria."

That same Saturday in March, Koch Foods, a Fairfield, Ohio, establishment, recalled approximately 1,420 pounds of frozen chicken breast products because they were packaged with the incorrect label. The frozen, pre-browned, raw products were labeled as "precooked" and therefore do not provide proper preparation instructions. These raw products may appear fully cooked.

Labels may be changed, but do people read labels? It appears that consumers could think that raw, pre-browned products are pre-cooked, when they are raw.

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Categories: Salmonella
Tags: Microwave