State and federal officials are investigating a multistate Salmonella outbreak traced to raw, frozen, breaded, stuffed chicken products. The USDA issued a public alert, but no recalls have been initiated as of the posting of the outbreak announcement.

The six-state outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis infections has sickened at least 17 people. The Salmonella strain appears to be particularly dangerous because of a high hospitalization rate. Of 13 patients for whom the information is available, eight of them have been admitted to hospitals.

Of 12 patients interviewed so far, 10 report preparing and eating frozen breaded stuffed chicken products, according to the outbreak announcement this afternoon from the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control. 

“People reported buying many different brands of raw frozen breaded stuffed chicken products from multiple stores. When asked about how the products were prepared at home, seven people reported undercooking, microwaving, or air frying the product,” the CDC reported.

“The Minnesota Department of Agriculture collected for testing five raw frozen breaded stuffed chicken products from a grocery store where an ill person purchased these products. The outbreak strain was identified in two samples of Kirkwood’s Chicken Cordon Bleu.”

The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) issued a public health alert in general reminding consumers to properly cook such products.

The FSIS alert says to use an oven to cook raw chicken products thoroughly to 165 degrees F and to never use a microwave or an air fryer to cook raw chicken products. Some products may appear to be cooked because of packaging illustration, so the FSIS urges consumers to carefully read the labels on frozen chicken products to know if they are raw. They may still contain raw chicken even if they are breaded, browned, or stuffed. No one should ever eat raw or undercooked chicken, according to public health agencies.

Laboratory analysis of samples from patients showed that bacteria from the samples are closely related genetically. This means that people in this outbreak likely got sick from the same source. Illness onset dates for the 17 patients range from Feb. 21 through May 7. Sick people range in age from 3 to 83 years old.

“The true number of sick people in an outbreak is likely much higher than the number reported, and the outbreak may not be limited to the states with known illnesses. This is because many people recover without medical care and are not tested for Salmonella. In addition, recent illnesses may not yet be reported as it usually takes 2 to 4 weeks to determine if a sick person is part of an outbreak,” according to the CDC announcement.

About Salmonella infections
Food contaminated with Salmonella bacteria does not usually look, smell, or taste spoiled. Anyone can become sick with a Salmonella infection. Infants, children, seniors, and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of serious illness because their immune systems are fragile, according to the CDC.

Anyone who has eaten any raw, frozen chicken products and developed symptoms of Salmonella infection should seek medical attention. Sick people should tell their doctors about the possible exposure to Salmonella bacteria because special tests are necessary to diagnose salmonellosis. Salmonella infection symptoms can mimic other illnesses, frequently leading to misdiagnosis.

Symptoms of Salmonella infection can include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours after eating contaminated food. Otherwise, healthy adults are usually sick for four to seven days. In some cases, however, diarrhea may be so severe that patients require hospitalization.

Older adults, children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients, are more likely to develop a severe illness and serious, sometimes life-threatening conditions.

Some people get infected without getting sick or showing any symptoms. However, they may still spread the infections to others.

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