/ Food & Drink

Are you cooking breaded chicken products safely?

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has found almost half of adults who cook coated frozen chicken products do not always check the instructions. Are you cooking yours safely?

This is a guest post by Narriman Looch, Head of Foodborne Disease Control Branch at the FSA. All views expressed are Narriman’s own and not necessarily shared by Which?. 

As you may have seen there has been a rise in the number of cases of Salmonella (a food poisoning bug), since January 2020 linked to popular breaded chicken products such as nuggets, goujons, dippers, poppers and kievs.

With good weather and more of us entertaining at home this summer, we want to help you make sure you’re cooking these products safely.

To help you avoid Salmonella, the FSA has pulled together four top tips to make sure you’re cooking breaded chicken products safely. This follows the behaviour identified in our survey.

FSA tips for frozen breaded chicken products

⚠ Check the instructions on packaging and cook at the correct temperature and for the time stated.

⚠ Make sure the oven is up to temperature before cooking.

⚠ Treat these products as raw chicken, ensuring the surfaces they have touched are cleaned to avoid the spread of bacteria and that they are steaming hot after cooking.

⚠ Wash your hands, utensils, and clean surfaces after handling uncooked products.

It’s also important to remember to always to follow the storage instructions on packaging.

You can take a look at our Salmonella webpage to find out what it is and how to reduce the risk of food poisoning. 

You may not realise that frozen chicken products often contain raw chicken, even though they may look cooked on the outside. While additional measures have been put in place by food businesses to improve the safety of these products, consumers need to handle these products as they should other raw meat products.

Cooking food at the right temperature and for the right amount of time will kill any bacteria that may be in your food. Therefore, we’re urging consumers to follow cooking instructions for these products to protect themselves and their families.

This was a guest post by Narriman Looch, Head of Foodborne Disease Control Branch at the FSA All views expressed were Narriman’s own and not necessarily shared by Which? 

Are you entertaining more at home this summer? Are you aware that breaded chicken products often contain raw chicken? Let us know in the comments.

Comments

It’s important to check that food is properly cooked and not just follow instructions. Ovens may not reach the correct temperature and not everyone follows the instructions to pre-heat the oven.

If all else fails, read the instructions. The danger from Campylobacter is also removed if chicken is cooked properly.

Adequate cooking is not enough. Cross contamination of cooked food and food that is eaten raw (e.g. salads) is also a cause of food poisoning. This is mentioned in various articles on the FSA website.

That is a separate issue from cooking chicken properly. I agree (of course) that it is important to keep raw and cooked foods apart. I suppose once upon a time mums would pass this sort of information on to their children, and domestic science was taught in school. But I wonder how many mums these days know much about handling food and cooking? Or dads for that matter.
Luckily much food does come with preparation instructions and these should be followed.

Unless the instructions stress the need to check that food is adequately heated (or cooked) they are not adequate.

In my experience the instructions include, besides temperature and time, “cook until juices run clear” or similar. If some are not competent, or not capable of following instructions then they should not be let loose to cook. Apparently most people in the UK consume chicken twice a week on average (seems a lot, but it is the most popular meat). That seems to result in very few problems.

As with most animal food our quest for quantity and price has inevitably led to less than ideal conditions. Although even if I were a chicken living in a nice field with lots of grain and grubs, knowing one day I would end up in an oven would be disturbing. I can still avoid the worst by buying meat from outdoor birds – and getting better flavour to boot.

Quite how we provide the affordable food people want without compromise in production processes is a conundrum.

Here is good advice from the Food Standards Authority. The first sentence would be relevant to breaded chicken and similar products:

“Meat
Before you serve pork, poultry and minced meat, make sure it is steaming hot and cooked all the way through. When you cut into the thickest part of the meat, check that none of the meat is pink and that any juices run clear. In a whole bird this is the area between the leg and the breast.”

When I last looked at frozen chicken products the instruction to make sure that they are steaming hot and cooked all the way through was often missing from instructions.

This is part of the instructions for cooking Tesco chicken:
”Cooking Precautions

Remove all packaging.
Check food is cooked thoroughly and juices run clear when pierced with a thin skewer before serving.
To avoid cross contamination, do not wash raw poultry and use separate chopping board and utensils for raw poultry and ready to eat foods.
Wash hands after touching raw poultry.
Check food is piping hot throughout before serving.
All appliances vary, these are guidelines only

That seems fine and hopefully similar instructions will be used by other manufacturers/retailers. It would be interesting to know what instructions are provided for frozen breaded chicken and related products.

For comparison, the cooking instructions for Tesco Frozen Breaded Chicken are:
“Oven from frozen
Instructions: 200°C/Fan 180°C/Gas 6 30-32 mins Place on a baking tray in the centre of a pre-heated oven.”

There is no mention of making sure that the food is piping hot before serving.

In answer to the question — no, we are not entertaining more at home this summer and if we were we would not be serving any chicken products, breaded or otherwise. I am not surprised such things might contain raw chicken.

Are we not supposed to say “chicken kyiv” now?

I have rarely bought chicken and certainly not in the past seven years. The animals tend to be treated poorly and remain unconvinced that the poultry industry is doing enough to improve standards.

Yesterday afternoon I visited a local pub with a huge beer garden, where I was invited to pick up one of the small chickens. It’s nice that they are genuinely ‘free range’.

I always adhere to the cooking instructions but once became quite ill after eating frozen chicken Kiev. I have never eaten it again since then. The same thing happened to my son after eating chicken pie where he was staying.

I eat quite a lot of raw salad but make a point of washing it thoroughly first. Lettuce contains lactucarium, which has a mild soporific effect, a weaker alternative to opium, and especially romaine lettuce. I always thought lettuce that made you sleepy was ‘an old wives tale’, but science is now able to produce the facts. A cheese and lettuce sandwich for lunch is a great afternoon nap inducer.

A pie or a Kiev is relatively large and oven or microwave heating may not be enough to ensure that the contents become hot enough to kill bacteria. That’s why its important to check the temperature and if necessary extend the cooking time. Instruction may recommend checking that food is piping hot before eating it.

It is certainly worth washing salad ingredients, and even bagged salad leaves can occasionally cause food poisoning. This was a serious example: https://www.thegrocer.co.uk/food-safety/salad-leaves-linked-to-major-uk-ecoli-outbreak-/538597.article It is permitted to wash salad leaves in a disinfectant solution to reduce the risk.

I like the taste of some lettuce, Romaine in particular, but does it actually have any nutritional value? Celery can be used as an alternative both as an ingredient in a salad and as a garnish or decoration.

https://www.google.com/search?q=lettuce+nutritional+value&rlz=1C9BKJA_enGB896GB896&oq=lettuce+nutricion&aqs=chrome.2.69i57j0i10i433j0i10l4.7299j0j7&hl=en-GB&sourceid=chrome-mobile&ie=UTF-8

I treat lettuce as an accessory, and quite like mixed salad leaves, but I cannot see the attraction of iceberg – tasteless. Decent salads for me contain olives, hard and soft cheese, nuts, apricot, peach, hard boiled egg, spring onion, radish, celery, cucumber, croutons, as well as a modicum of leaves. Oh, and anchovies add flavour. Not necessarily all these components together.

Lettuce and celery do not provide much fibre but every little helps if you don’t have much in your diet.

I like tomatoes, beetroot, pickled onions, sweet pickle, mango chutney, celery, cucumber, grated hard cheese, apple and half a hard-boiled egg in a salad [usually all together], sometimes with pâté, sultanas, grapes, coleslaw or peppers, and mange tout and little new potatoes as accompaniments. I’ve gone off spring onions and radish and I dislike olives.