October 4, 2008 / 4:26 AM / 11 years ago

Cook frozen chicken entrees properly, USDA urges

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. government on Friday urged consumers to follow package cooking instructions after 32 people in 12 states got Salmonella poisoning after eating frozen stuffed chicken entrees that were raw but breaded.

Although many of the chicken dishes had instructions identifying the product as uncooked, people who got sick did not follow those instructions and reportedly used microwaves to prepare the entrees, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service said in a statement.

In a public health alert, the agency said all poultry products should be cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit (74 degrees Celsius) and the best way to do that was with a food thermometer.

It said frozen, raw stuffed chicken products labeled “chicken cordon bleu” or “chicken Kiev,” as well as chicken breasts stuffed with cheese or vegetables, often appeared to be cooked because they were breaded or pre-browned.

But failure to cook these entrees properly could lead to serious illnesses, such as Salmonella infection, which could be life-threatening, especially in infants, the elderly and other people with weakened immune systems.

The food safety agency said the public health alert was triggered after an investigation and testing by Minnesota food safety officials linked the chicken products with 32 illnesses in Minnesota and 11 other states.

Common symptoms of salmonellosis include diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever within eight to 72 hours, but people could also experience chills, headache, nausea and vomiting for up to seven days.

Reporting by Andrea Shalal-Esa; editing by Mohammad Zargham

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