32,000 Pounds Of Bell & Evans Chicken Was Just Recalled, So Step Away From Those Nuggets

Fries are a great side dish for chicken nuggets. Food poisoning, not so much. In what can only be described as the worst news ever for chicken enthusiasts everywhere, nearly 32,000 pounds of Bell & Evans chicken nuggets were recalled due to staphylococcus enterotoxin contamination. No, that wasn't a typo. Yes, you read it correctly. 32 thousand pounds of chicken. 16 tons of chicken. Your dinner for decades was just recalled. And thankfully so because Staphylococcus enterotoxin is known to cause symptoms like cramps, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting within just half an hour of ingesting the bacteria.

Murry's Inc., a Pennsylvania-based company specializing in frozen foods like chicken, as well as french toast, meatballs, burgers, and Salisbury steak, is behind the recall. Some of the contaminated products hit the shelves relatively recently, as chicken with an expiration date of up to August 9, 2015 may be affected. Problematic boxes of chicken bear the establishment number “P-516” inside the USDA mark of inspection.

Included in the recall are 12 ounce boxes of Bell & Evans Gluten Free Breaded Chicken Breast Nuggets and 10.5 ounce boxes of Bell & Evans Gluten Free Breaded Chicken Breast. The grand total of 32,000 affected pounds suggests that close to 50,000 boxes of the product were distributed to stores nationwide. The contamination was discovered by the Colorado Department of Agriculture, which prompted the immediate Class I recall of the nuggets breaded chicken breasts. A Class I recall is the most serious of classifications, as it means that there is a high health risk associated with the contamination. Thus far, however, no illnesses have been reported in conjunction with the chicken.

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According to the United States Department of Agriculture press release, Staphylococcal enterotoxin is a rather common bacteria that normally lives on our skin and in our noses. But if we ingest the enterotoxin, it causes various forms of gastrointestinal illness, and with the fear of Ebola running rampant, anything that causes similar symptoms is to be avoided at all costs.

Staphylococcal enterotoxin is one of the bacteria most commonly linked to food poisoning, as it produces seven toxins that are often cited as the causes of illness. While the toxins are often fast acting, victims normally recover in one to three days after exposure. The USDA recommends following a few basic food safety guidelines to prevent Staphylococcal contamination, including cleaning and sanitizing cooking surfaces and serving areas, as well as keeping food at their proper temperatures. This means that hot foods should be kept at over 140°F, whereas cold foods should be kept at under 40°F.

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Other common sense practices include washing your hands before and after preparing food, and avoiding cooking altogether "if you have an open sore or wound on your hands or if you have a nose or eye infection."

The Bell & Evans store locater suggests that its products can be found in all but 10 states in the US, with most of the continental United States, save parts of the Pacific Northwest and the Midwest, carrying their chicken nuggets. Food poisoning, apparently, is the price of frozen food convenience.

And that's not even the only chicken recall. On Friday, the USDA also announced a Class I recall of 28,980 pounds of Salmonella Enteritidis infected chicken products. Consumers in Minnesota were warned to be on the lookout for Antioch Farms branded Raw Stuffed Chicken Breast Breaded products, as well as Boneless Breast of Chicken with Rib Meat "A La Kiev."

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While the 32,000 pound recall, luckily, has not yet been linked to any cases of illness, the Minnesota recall was less fortunate. A Minnesota Department of Agriculture investigation found that six cases of illness were linked to consumption of the chicken between August and September, but with no resulting deaths. The Salmonella virus is known to salmonellosis, considered the most common form of food poisoning. Diarrhea, cramps, and fever are often signs of the illness, and patients can remain sick for up to a week. While most people can recover at home, some severe cases require hospitalization, as was the case for one of the individuals affected by the contaminated chicken.

The frequency with which chicken products are contaminated by bacteria is extremely problematic considering the love affair Americans have with poultry. In 2014, chicken surpassed beef as the most popular meat in the country for the first time in over 100 years . Rising prices and increased health consciousness in the US has led to the decline of red meat's popularity, and chicken has stepped up to fill the empty slot left by beef. Whereas in the 1950's, the average American ate only 16 pounds of chicken every year, that number has now skyrocketed to nearly 60 pounds a year. But if any of those pounds are comprised of Bell & Evans chicken nuggets or breaded chicken breast, be careful before you consume.

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