Aspen Foods U-turns on chicken recall

By Joseph James Whitworth contact

- Last updated on GMT

One of the products recalled
One of the products recalled

Related tags: Salmonella enteritidis, Food, Salmonella, Salmonella enterica

Aspen Foods has recalled more chicken after initially refusing to do so as products have been linked to Salmonella illnesses.

The division of Koch Poultry Company recalled 561,000 pounds of frozen, raw, stuffed and breaded chicken products that appear to be ready-to-eat (RTE) earlier this month.

It had refused the request based on the advice of its food safety experts and legal counsel​.

The US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) had told staff to detain products they find in commerce.

USDA-FSIS said affected items were produced between August 25 and September 17 with “best if used by” dates of August 23, 2016 to December 15, 2016.

The agency said the recall expansion includes all products associated with contaminated source material.

Brands associated with the recall include Antioch Farms, Buckley Farms, Chestnut Farms, Kirkwood, Koch Foods, Oven Cravers, Rose, Schwan’s and Spartan – see affected products here​.

Jobs lost

Aspen Foods has cut 65 jobs at its Chicago processing plant citing actions by the USDA.

The job losses were revealed in a notice under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) in Illinois.  

Eating food contaminated with Salmonella can cause salmonellosis. The most common symptoms are diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours after exposure to the organism. The illness usually lasts four to seven days.

Most people recover without treatment but in some people the diarrhea may be so severe that they need to be hospitalized.

Infections linked to chicken entrees by Aspen Foods increased to five people with two strains of Salmonella Enteritidis from Minnesota, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The two illnesses were in July and were identified after product testing.

The Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) collected 30 samples of unopened Antioch Farms brand frozen chicken entrees made by Aspen Foods from retail locations and isolated Salmonella from 25 samples.

Whole genome sequencing determined that two Salmonella Enteritidis isolates from people in Minnesota were closely related genetically and to an isolate from a food sample.

During interviews, both reported consuming Antioch Farms brand chicken in the week before illness began so they were added to the total case count for the outbreak.

Initial recall and investigation

Aspen Foods recalled almost 2m pounds of chicken in July produced between April 15 and July 10 with “best if used by” dates between July 14, 2016 and October 10, 2016.

USDA-FSIS reported that chicken entrees produced by Aspen Foods were confirmed as having the outbreak strain of Salmonella Enteritidis in September.

Twelve positive samples were collected during intensified sampling efforts alerting FSIS to a systemic problem at the establishment, and the agency said it could not have confidence in the safety of any products produced after July 30, 2015.

The frozen, raw, stuffed and breaded chicken product was labeled with instructions identifying that it was raw and included cooking instructions for preparation.

Some case-patients reported following these instructions and using a food thermometer to confirm the recommended temperature was achieved, so FSIS advises all consumers to treat it like a raw chicken product.

There has been no update since July in a separate investigation into infections linked to raw, frozen, stuffed chicken entrees produced by Barber Foods​. 

The two outbreaks are caused by different strains of Salmonella Enteritidis. 

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

Related topics: Food Safety & Quality

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