Antioch Farms frozen Chicken Cordon Bleu has been linked to a Salmonella outbreak that has sickened at least three people in Minnesota, hospitalizing two of them. Despite the epidemiological link to the illnesses, the company has not issued a recall for the product.
Yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced it had joined the investigation of the outbreak that is occurring at the same time as another Salmonella outbreak linked to a similar product, frozen Chicken Kiev by Barber Foods of Portland, Maine. Barber has issued a recall for its product which has been linked to four illnesses in Minnesota.
The Salmonella strains identified in both outbreaks are common, so CDC officials are performing further tests on cultures from others who have been sickened by the same strains to see if they are part of these outbreaks.
The products in both of these outbreaks are breaded, raw and pre-browned. The Antioch Farms products, sold at many different grocery store chains, have the code P-1358. Health officials have not yet disclosed the names of those stores.
Last fall, Antioch Farms Chicken Kiev was linked to a Salmonella outbreak that sickened six people in Minnesota. At that time, Dr. Carlota Medus, epidemiologist for the Foodborne Diseases Unit at Minnesota Department of Health, told Food Poisoning Bulletin that a 2008 labeling rule had virtually eliminated outbreaks associated with these kinds of products, so when illnesses were reported it raised a red flag that something must have changed with the chicken.
As per the 2008 label rule, the packages of Antioch Farms products in both outbreaks were clearly marked as raw and did not have microwave instructions. During interviews, some patients in both outbreaks said they carefully followed cooking instructions indicating that the chicken was contaminated with so much Salmonella that it would be very difficult to prepare it with out getting sick.
Minnesota public health officials cannot compel a company to recall a product. With th outbreak last fall, they presented their findings to the company and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) which announced a recall of 14 toms of the product by Aspen Foods Division of Koch Meats in Chicago on October 24. It is not clear why Antioch did not issue a recall this time around.
Eating foods contaminated with Salmonella can cause salmonellosis. Symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours after exposure to the organism lasting four to seven days. In some cases, where the infection travels from the intestinal tract to the bloodstream, infections can be life-threatening.