WASHINGTON – The National Chicken Council (NCC) recently petitioned the US Dept. of Agriculture for mandatory labels on raw, stuffed chicken products that may appear cooked and ready to eat (RTE).

Specifically, NCC is requesting USDA to:

  • Conduct a rulemaking to adopt a regulation requiring that not-ready-to-eat (NRTE) stuffed chicken breast products that appear ready-to-eat be prominently and uniformly  labeled to clearly inform consumers that the products are raw and how to properly handle and cook them; and
  • Publish a Compliance Guideline explaining how to validate cooking instructions for NRTE stuffed chicken breast products that appear RTE, which incorporates NCC’s “Best Practices for Cooking Instruction Validation for Frozen NRTE Stuffed Chicken Breast Products.”

Raw, stuffed poultry products were implicated in foodborne illnesses in 2015. Portland, Maine-based Barber Foods launched a recall of approximately 1.7 million lbs. of frozen, raw stuffed chicken products that may be contaminated with Salmonella Enteritidis after the Food Safety and Inspection Service received notice of a cluster of Salmonella Enteritidis illnesses.

“NCC increasingly is aware that some consumers may be uncertain of the proper handling and cooking methods for NRTE stuffed chicken breast products that may appear RTE, and the proposed measures are necessary to ensure proper handling and cooking of these products,” NCC President Mike Brown said in the petition. “This labeling would clearly inform consumers that these products are raw and require proper cooking while providing specific and uniform instructions on how to cook the products.”

NCC believes that mandatory label regulations would increase consumer awareness that these products contain raw poultry and must be cooked for safety.