The US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has warned that packaging labels such as ‘Cook and Serve’, ‘Ready to Cook’, and ‘Oven Ready’ may lead to consumers undercooking products and becoming ill as a result.
The FSIS, in collaboration with the state of Minnesota, has recently investigated illnesses associated with frozen entrees that contain raw chicken.
These frozen, breaded, boneless chicken products that may also be stuffed or filled and appear browned are raw and must be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit (around 75 degrees Celsius). Using a food thermometer is the only sure way of knowing your food has reached a high enough temperature to destroy foodborne bacteria.
Because these products are often stuffed or filled with additional ingredients, they may take longer to reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165Â°F than chicken breasts that do not contain fillings.
FSIS believes that in some cases, consumers may not realise that the breading on these products has only been pre-browned and these frozen entrees contain raw chicken. FSIS is also concerned that consumers may not be following cooking instructions or that because of the variability of microwave ovens, the instructions may not yield a product that reaches an adequate internal temperature.
FSIS is requiring that the manufacturers of these products ensure that new labels clearly state that these products contain raw chicken and must be fully cooked to the recommended minimum internal temperature. In addition, FSIS is taking steps to ensure that cooking instructions are effective, understandable and practical.