The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has issued a public health alert about Aspen Foods stuffed frozen chicken products that are linked to a Salmonella outbreak. Apparently, inspectors found that the facility that produced those products is contaminated with the pathogenic bacteria. But Koch Poultry Company, which owns the facility, is refusing to recall the chicken.
Under the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011 (FSMA), FDA has the authority to force a recall and seize products that are deemed dangerous to the public. USDA has had that authority since the 1960s. They have ordered their personnel to “detain products covered by this alert that they find in commerce because the company has refused to recall the products.”
The products were recalled voluntarily by the company on July 15, 2015. Since that time, FSIS has been conducting “intensified sampling” at the facility to ensure that the hazard responsible for the contamination is being controlled. But twelve environmental samples yielded the outbreak strain of the pathogenic bacteria, which means the company was not controlling the problem. Koch Poultry has now refused to recall the contaminated food.
The government is so concerned about this problem that they are telling their personnel to detain products found in commerce. They are also telling consumers to not purchase these products, and to throw them out if they have purchased them. Thorough cooking is not enough to make these products safe.
Some people sickened in this outbreak told government officials that they cooked the product as directed and checked the final internal temperature with a food thermometer. They still got sick. That means there is so much contamination on the food that cooking will not kill all of the bacteria. In fact, the USDA alert states, “Using a food thermometer to properly cook these products will not protect the health of the consuming public.”
Another possibility is that the bacteria are producing a toxin that heat doesn’t destroy. Salmonella bacteria can produce enterotoxins that are heat resistant. The bacteria could also be so virulent that cooking will not kill all of them.
These products are sold under the following brand names: Acclaim, Antioch Farms, Buckley Farms, Centrella Signature, Chestnut Farms, Family Favorites, Kirkwood, Koch Foods, Market Day, Oven Cravers, Rose, Rosebud Farm, Roundy’s, Safeway Kitchens, Schwan’s, Shaner’s, Spartan, and Sysco. They are labeled “chicken cordon bleu”, “chicken Kiev” or “chicken broccoli and cheese” and have the establishment number “P-1358” inside the USDA mark of inspection. They were sold nationwide.
The symptoms of a Salmonella infection include diarrhea that may be bloody, abdominal cramps, fever, chills, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting, and headache. Symptoms usually begin 12 to 72 hours after exposure and last about a week.
While some people recover on their own, others, especially those in this particular outbreak, become so ill they must be hospitalized. Small children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems and chronic illnesses are more likely to be seriously ill with this type of infection.
Check to see if you have any of these products in your home freezer. You can see pictures of some of the recalled product labels at the FDA web site in two pages. Discard them, then wash your hands carefully and thoroughly with soap and water.
If you have eaten these products, or have eaten them at food service locations such as campus cafeterias, hospitals, or nursing homes and have experienced the symptoms of Salmonella food poisoning, please see your doctor. The long term consequences of this infection can be serious, including arthritis and heart disease.