WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Agriculture is setting its sights on breaded stuffed chicken products after years of outbreaks and illnesses.
Since 1998, the USDA said breaded stuffed raw chicken products have been associated with up to 14 outbreaks and approximately 200 illnesses. These products, including chicken cordon bleu or chicken Kiev, appear to be cooked. However, they are only heat-treated enough to set the batter or breading.
The USDA said they have continually tried to improve the product labeling, but it has not been effective in reducing consumer illnesses. In October, the USDA announced that it was reevaluating its strategy, including if Salmonella should be considered an adulterant in specific raw chicken products.
On Monday, the USDA announced that it is declaring that Salmonella is an adulterant in breaded and stuffed raw chicken products.
“Food safety is at the heart of everything FSIS does,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “That mission will guide us as this important first step launches a broader initiative to reduce Salmonella illnesses associated with poultry in the U.S.”
This announcement means that the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) can make sure that highly contaminated products that could make people sick aren’t sold. The USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety said the announcement is only the start of their efforts.
The FSIS proposed that these products will be considered adulterated when they exceed a low level of contamination. The FSIS proposed to set the limit at 1 colony forming unit per gram. This is a level the agency believes will significantly reduce the risk of illness from eating these products.
The agency is exploring if there should be a different standard. This includes zero tolerance or one based on specific strain or bacteria or virus.
The notice is expected to be published in the Federal Register this fall. FSIS is seeking comments about the standard to form a final implementation plan. People can comment on the issue after the notice is published.