Last summer, a Salmonella outbreak was linked to breaded, stuffed chicken sold under the brand names Milford Valley, Dutch Farms, and Kirkwood. Serenade Foods, the company that made the tainted chicken Kiev and chicken cordon bleu products, was informed by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture in June 2021 of test results showing the outbreak strain had been found in two samples of Kirkwood’s Chicken Cordon Bleu. But the company didn’t issue a recall. And the U.S. Department of Agricultures’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA FSIS) didn’t try to compel the company to do so.
“At this time, the production lots tested in Minnesota are not known to have been purchased by any of the case patients. FSIS has not received any purchase documentation, shopper records, or other traceable information at this time,” the agency said in a Public Health Alert for frozen, stuffed, breaded chicken products. The alert, which did not name Kirkwood or any other brand, was issued to remind consumers to handle raw poultry safely.
That’s because USDA FSIS, the federal agency charged with regulating meat and poultry, does not consider Salmonella an adulterant, meaning it’s legal to sell poultry contaminated with Salmonella.
But that’s about to change.
USDA FSIS has just announced that it will be declaring Salmonella an adulterant in breaded and stuffed, raw chicken products.
A notice is expected to appear in the Federal Register this fall seeking public comments on what the standard should be and how the testing will work. When the proposal is finalized, FSIS will announce the start date for routine Salmonella testing of these products.
“Today’s announcement is an important moment in U.S. food safety because we are declaring Salmonella an adulterant in a raw poultry product,” said Sandra Eskin, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety. “This is just the beginning of our efforts to improve public health.”
This action is the first small step USDA FSIS has taken after announcing last fall that it was time to reevaluate its strategy for controlling Salmonella in poultry. Currently, the agency will not ask a company to issue a recall until it finds the outbreak strain in unopened intact packages of poultry purchased by an outbreak patient. When they were able to do this last summer, two months after the Minnesota testing had been done, Serenade did issue a recall. By that time the outbreak had doubled in size causing 36 illnesses and 12 hospitalizations.
Products like Chicken Kiev are Repeat Offenders
The Serenade outbreak last summer wasn’t its first. In 2006, Kirkwood stuffed, breaded chicken products, made by Serenade Foods were linked to a Salmonella Enteritidis outbreak that sickened 29 people in Minnesota and Michigan. That outbreak was also linked to products made by Aspen Foods of Chicago.
In fact, a number of manufacturers have been linked to Salmonella outbreaks. Since 1998, breaded and stuffed raw chicken products have been linked to at least 14 outbreaks that caused 200 illnesses. Initially, it was believed that the breading on these products made them appear to be cooked. But continual efforts to improve product labeling did reduce consumer illnesses.
One reason is that in some cases these products are so contaminated that just handling them can cause illness, so even consumers who follow directions carefully can get sick. That was the case with a 2014 Salmonella Enteritidis outbreak, linked to Antioch Farms chicken Kiev, that sickened six people in Minnesota. Chicago-based Aspen Foods, a division of Koch Meats produced the items.
Experienced Salmonella Lawyers
If you or a family member developed a Salmonella infection from contaminated breaded chicken items, please contact the Pritzker Hageman Salmonella Legal Team for a free consultation. We have represented clients in every major Salmonella outbreak in the U.S. You can reach us by calling 1-888-377-8900, sending a text to 612-261-0856, or by completing the form below. There is no obligation and we don’t get paid unless we win.