Salmonella in Frozen Chicken

November 4/Food Weekly Focus -- According to recent research from the U.S., "Frozen chicken products have been identified recently as a cause of salmonellosis. At least eight salmonellosis outbreaks from 1998-2008 have implicated undercooked frozen chicken nuggets, strips and entrees as infection vehicles."

"Thus, the presence of Salmonella in frozen products may pose an infection risk if the product is improperly cooked. The objective of this study was to assess the survivability of Salmonella during frozen storage (-20 degrees C) when inoculated in processed chicken products. Four Salmonella strains originally isolated from poultry were inoculated into frozen chicken nuggets (fully cooked) and frozen chicken strips (containing raw poultry) at initial populations of 10(4) to 10(5) CFU/g. Survival was assessed during storage at -20 degrees C for 16 weeks by measuring bacterial growth on minimal, selective and nonselective agars. Cell populations measured in nonselective agars (plate count agar and plate count agar supplemented with tetracycline) and minimal (M9) agar remained relatively constant during the entire -20 degrees C storage period studied (16 weeks) for both chicken nuggets and strips. However, cell populations were significantly (P<0.05) lower when measured in selective agar (XLT4) during the 16 weeks of frozen storage for both chicken nuggets and strips, suggesting that these cells were structurally injured," wrote S.A. Dominguez and colleagues, Rutgers University.

The researchers concluded, "The data presented in this study indicate that Salmonella can survive frozen storage when inoculated in frozen, processed chicken products and confirm that microbial counts on selective agar are not representative of the total population of samples subject to freezing."

Dominguez and colleagues published their study in the Journal of Food Protection ("Survival of Salmonella in Processed Chicken Products During Frozen Storage." Journal of Food Protection, 2009;72(10):2088-2092).

For additional information, contact D.W. Schaffner, Rutgers State University, Dept. of Food Science, 65 Dudley Rd., New Brunswick, NJ 08901.

From the November 9, 2009, Prepared Foods E-dition