July 14, 2024

Salmonella Outbreak Shows Not All Frozen Meals Are “Heat and Serve” Items

Performing a pathogen “kill step” sounds more like something from a weird video game than a routine part of dinner prep. But killing pathogens in food by cooking them thoroughly, including many frozen foods, is a duty consumers are regularly charged with. The problem is, they often don’t know it, as was the case in 2010 when 44 people got Salmonella poisoning after heating, but not thoroughly cooking, frozen meals.

SalmonellaBetween May 24 – June 19, 2010, 44 people from 18 states contracted Salmonella infections after eating frozen cheesy chicken and rice meals.  Chicken was identified as the likely source of the Salmonella.  The company, whose name was witheld by the CDC, issued a recall for the products.

The outbreak shows that not all frozen meals are “heat and serve” items, but many consumers don’t realize that, according to the  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Some frozen meals contain raw ingredients and must be fully cooked, not just heated, before they are ready to eat.

This outbreak is one of several that have been linked to frozen foods. Earlier this year, a multistate E. coli outbreak was linked to Farm Rich frozen foods. Thirty five people in 19 states were sickened in that outbreak. Most of them, 82 percent, were under the age of 21. Nine people were hospitalized, two of them developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) which leads to kidney failure.

A common thread among these outbreaks is that many consumers use a microwave oven, but aren’t aware of its wattage. According to the CDC, 84 percent of U.S. residents say they use a microwave oven to prepare packaged products, but only 69 percent follow all of the cooking instructions and just 26 percent knew their microwave wattage. The determine the wattage of your microwave: look for a sticker or label inside the door, check your manual or contact the manufacturer.





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