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Health Answers

How can you be sure that microwaved frozen chicken is safe to eat?

By Judy Foreman
January 12, 2009
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Use a meat thermometer and make sure the internal temperature of the chicken is at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit, according to a recent warning from the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the US Department of Agriculture. This means really cooking the chicken, in a regular oven or microwave, not merely thawing it.

Some consumers have fallen ill with salmonella, a type of bacteria that causes diarrhea, after they did not follow the cooking directions on packages of frozen chicken, said a USDA spokesman, Roger Sockman. Many frozen chicken products, such as chicken Kiev and chicken cordon bleu, may appear to be precooked, but are actually only prebreaded or prebrowned. Thus, microwaving only to the point of thawing will not kill salmonella, which causes an estimated 1.4 million cases of food borne illnesses and more than 500 deaths every year, according to government figures.

The USDA became aware of the problem after more than two dozen people in Minnesota fell ill after improperly microwaving such chicken products, even though product packaging made clear that the chicken was uncooked and did not contain microwaving instructions.

Said Roger Fielding, a professor of nutrition at Tufts University: "Always cut it open and make sure it is white, not pink or translucent. You really have to be careful."

E-mail health questions to foreman@globe.com.

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