Aspen Foods refuses additional recall request

By Joseph James Whitworth

- Last updated on GMT

Aspen Foods said based on advice of experts and legal counsel it is declining to recall
Aspen Foods said based on advice of experts and legal counsel it is declining to recall

Related tags Salmonella enteritidis Food Usda

Aspen Foods has refused to recall additional chicken products after the USDA-FSIS said it had found a strain of Salmonella that prompted an earlier recall.

The US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) said frozen, raw, stuffed and breaded chicken produced by Aspen Foods, a division of Koch Poultry Company could be contaminated.

FSIS has directed staff to detain products they find in commerce because the company has refused to conduct a recall.

The agency said it is concerned about products made between July 30 and September 17​.

They bear the establishment number “P-1358” on the packaging and have “best if used by” dates between October 29, 2016 and December 16, 2016.

These dates were calculated using production dates and the 15-month shelf life of the products.

First recall in July after illness link

Aspen Foods said it has implemented new food safety measures to reduce Salmonella and its testing data shows efforts have been successful.

The firm recalled 1.9 million pounds of frozen, raw, stuffed, and breaded chicken products on July 15 due to concerns they could be contaminated with Salmonella Enteritidis.

CDC, the Minnesota Department of Health, and USDA-FSIS said three people infected with a strain of Salmonella Enteritidis were reported from Minnesota in June​.

The three illnesses occurred after people had eaten Antioch Farms brand Cordon Bleu stuffed chicken breast, produced by Aspen Foods, according to the CDC.

Aspen Foods said it remains confident in the safety of its raw, breaded, stuffed chicken breast products made in compliance with USDA regulations.

“In the spirit of cautious cooperation, we complied with USDA's request to conduct a voluntary recall of our raw, breaded, stuffed chicken breasts on July 15,” ​it said. 

“At that time, USDA had identified three human cases of salmonellosis, but couldn't find a product that tested positive for the same strain.

“USDA focused on our product because the ill people recalled eating our products -- along with many other foods. Despite the fact that USDA never found the strain of Salmonella​ they sought in our products, we agreed to recall voluntarily.”

12 positive samples

FSIS said it had been doing intensified sampling to ensure the hazard responsible for the initial contamination had been controlled by the firm.

Results from FSIS sampling revealed twelve positive results that match the outbreak strain of Salmonella Enteritidis to Aspen Foods products.

The twelve positive samples alerted the agency to a systemic problem and it said it cannot have confidence in safety of products made after July 30.

USDA-FSIS said some case-patients of the July recall reported following the cooking instructions on the label and using a food thermometer to confirm the recommended temperature was achieved.

Aspen Foods described the statement questioning the effectiveness of cooking instructions on the package as ‘puzzling’.

“Our cooking instructions included on every package were validated as effective and approved by USDA.  Our label clearly states that the product must be cooked in accordance with these instructions.”

Declining to recall

The firm said Salmonella at low levels is permitted on raw poultry because it occurs there naturally and cooking destroys it

“In contrast to the July situation, USDA has now found the pathogen, but they haven't found people with the illnesses during the time these products were produced and marketed. Nevertheless, USDA asked us to recall six weeks of additional production. 

“This time, based on the advice of our food safety experts and legal counsel, we are declining to recall.”

Aspen Foods said the safety of products and confidence of customer is critically important.

“However, without clear evidence to justify this massive new recall, we believe that complying with USDA's request will only create confusion and concern in the marketplace and harm our company's reputation when we have been cooperative and proactive, and when we have evidence to show that our products are safe and compliant with federal rules.”

CDC is still investigating a separate outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis infections linked to raw, frozen, stuffed chicken entrees produced by Barber Foods​.

Nine people have been reported from four states: Illinois (1), Minnesota (6), Oklahoma (1), and Wisconsin (1) with three having been hospitalized.

Barber Foods expanded a recall of chicken Kiev on July 2 by recalling 1.7 million pounds of frozen, raw stuffed chicken products that may be contaminated on July 12. 

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