The government is urging consumers to thoroughly cook frozen chicken dinners after 32 people in 12 states were sickened with salmonella food 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 Milford Valley Farms "chicken cordon bleu," "chicken Kiev," or chicken breasts stuffed with cheese, vegetables or other items.   This is the sixth outbreak in recent years according to the Minnesota Department of Health.  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.

Of course the folks at have all the information on past outbreaks of these products:

  • Three things stand out for me in this incident.
    1. USDA did not include the name of the manufacturer or the brand name in its very generic “Public Health Alert”. We only know officially which company was involved thanks to the diligence of Minnesota’s officials.
    2. USDA issued a very similar alert in late March 2008. That time, they indicated the manufacturer, and listed several “labels”, including MILFORD VALLEY FARMS.
    3. USDA does not consider Salmonella to be an adulterant in raw poultry. Therefore, USDA will NOT request a voluntary recall.

  • Bix

    The USDA said that “Individuals who became ill did not follow the cooking instructions.”
    Does that mean it’s the consumers’ fault? Does no fault lie elsewhere? (Serious question.)

  • As far as USDA is concerned, the fault lies with the consumer’s inattention to proper cooking directions. (Note my third point – USDA does not consider Salmonella-contaminated raw chicken to be adulterated).
    The obvious supplementary question is whether the package cooking directions are adequate to ensure that any Salmonella that may be present in the raw chicken has been killed. I think that was ConAgra’s downfall in the pot pie outbreak – the cooking directions were inadequate. People were cooking the pies according to package directions and still getting sick.