WASHINGTON – The U.S. government is urging consumers to thoroughly cook frozen chicken dinners after 32 people in 12 states were sickened with salmonella poisoning.
The health warning by the U.S. Department of Agriculture cited frozen dishes in which the chicken is raw, but breaded or pre-browned, giving the appearance of being cooked. They include "chicken cordon bleu," "chicken Kiev," or chicken breasts stuffed with cheese, vegetables or other items.
USDA said many of the people who became ill apparently did not follow the package's cooking instructions and microwaved the chicken dishes even though the instructions did not provide for it. Microwaving didn't heat the meals enough to kill the salmonella.
The department said consumers should cook chicken products to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service issued the warning Friday after Minnesota health officials found a link between the chicken dinners with salmonella illnesses reported in Minnesota and 11 other states. It did not name the states in its release, and did not immediately respond to a message left at its press office Saturday seeking that information.
Symptoms of salmonella poisoning include diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever within eight to 72 hours. It can be life-threatening, especially to those with weak immune systems such as infants and the elderly.