Some frozen chicken dishes are not precooked and can cause illness if not prepared properly. Food-borne illness is of particular concern to people with cancer whose immune systems may be lowered by treatment.
The United States Department of Agriculture has issued a public health alert to remind consumers to cook frozen chicken dishes according to package instructions and to use a meat thermometer to be sure that internal temperatures reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Microwave ovens may not reach safe temperatures for frozen chicken entrees where chicken is raw and not precooked, even if the chicken is breaded or appears browned.
The alert was prompted by 32 cases of salmonella infection in Minnesota and 11 cases in other states that were all related to raw frozen chicken entrees that were microwaved. The cases were linked by identical salmonella DNA fingerprints.
According to USDA chicken products linked to the alert are:
Frozen, raw, breaded and pre-browned stuffed chicken products covered by this alert and similar products, may be stuffed or filled, breaded or browned and therefore appear to be cooked. These items may be labeled “chicken cordon bleu,” “chicken kiev” or chicken breast stuffed with cheese, vegetables or other items.
Consumption of food contaminated with Salmonella can cause salmonellosis, one of the most common bacterial foodborne illnesses. Salmonella infections can be life-threatening, especially to those with weak immune systems, such as infants, the elderly and persons with HIV infection or undergoing chemotherapy.
The most common symptoms of salmonellosis are diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within eight to 72 hours. Additional symptoms may be chills, headache, nausea and vomiting that can last up to seven days.