On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) issued a public health alert due to concerns about illnesses caused by two separate strains of Salmonella that may be associated with raw, frozen, breaded and pre-browned, stuffed chicken products. These items may be labeled “chicken cordon bleu” or “chicken Kiev.” The State of Minnesota notified FSIS about a Salmonella enteritidis illness cluster on June 23, 2015, and the agency is investigating it, along with state officials. FSIS suspects that there is a link between the frozen, raw, breaded and pre-browned stuffed chicken products and this illness cluster based on information gathered in conjunction with the Minnesota Departments of Health and Agriculture. Using epidemiological evidence, case-patients have been identified in Minnesota with illness onset dates ranging from May 9, 2015, to June 8, 2015, FSIS stated. The next day, June 24, 2015, FSIS was notified by the State of Minnesota of a second, separate Salmonella enteritidis illness cluster with another strain. FSIS also suspects there is a link between the frozen, raw, breaded and pre-browned stuffed chicken products and this illness cluster based on information gathered in conjunction with the State of Minnesota Departments of Health and Agriculture. Using epidemiological evidence, case-patients have been identified in Minnesota with illness onset dates ranging from April 5, 2015, to June 8, 2015. The illnesses may be associated with products that are ready-to-eat, but are in fact raw and need to be fully cooked before consumption. Frozen, raw, breaded and pre-browned stuffed chicken products covered by this alert and similar products, may be stuffed or filled, breaded or browned. Many of these stuffed chicken products were labeled with instructions identifying that the product was uncooked (raw) and did include cooking instructions for preparation. Some case-patients reported following these cooking instructions and using a food thermometer to confirm that the recommended temperature was achieved. Thus, FSIS advises all consumers that particular attention needs to be taken to safely prepare and cook these raw poultry products to a temperature of 165 degrees F. The only way to confirm that raw poultry products are cooked to a temperature high enough to kill harmful bacteria is to use a food thermometer that measures internal temperature. Additionally, keep raw poultry away from other food that will not be cooked. Use one cutting board for raw poultry and a separate one for fresh produce and cooked foods. The investigations are ongoing. FSIS officials are continuing to work with those from the Minnesota Departments of Health and Agriculture on both of these investigations and will provide updated information as it becomes available. The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) just issued a similar warning a few days ago after 44 people in Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador were sickened with Salmonella. Twelve of them were hospitalized, but no deaths have been reported. Illness onset dates in that Canadian outbreak were given as Feb. 7 to May 23, 2015. PHAC stated that it was collaborating with provincial partners, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Health Canada to investigate the outbreak, which was linked to frozen, raw, breaded chicken nuggets, chicken burgers and strips. Consumption of food contaminated with Salmonella can cause salmonellosis, one of the most common bacterial foodborne illnesses. The most common symptoms of salmonellosis are diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours after exposure to the organism. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days. Most people recover without treatment. In some persons, however, the diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized. Older adults, infants, and persons with weakened immune systems are more likely to develop a severe illness. Individuals concerned about an illness should contact their health care provider.
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