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If you have this chicken at home, definitely don’t eat it

Published May 26th, 2021 2:28PM EDT
chicken recall
Image: University of Sheffield

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An alert regarding a massive recall

of frozen chicken products has just been issued by the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. The recall is due to possible contamination from a nasty bacteria that can cause severe and even life-threatening symptoms in some individuals. However, unlike many such recalls, this alert doesn’t apply to food that was sold through grocery stores or other retail locations. Instead, the issue is isolated to chicken that was distributed via food banks in one state through the USDA’s Farmers to Families Food Box program.

Over 130,000 pounds of frozen but fully cooked, diced chicken is included in this recall, and the bacteria posing the danger is Listeria monocytogenes.  Listeria infection, called listeriosis, is a foodborne illness that can take on a variety of forms with symptoms ranging from fever and nausea to more severe problems like convulsions and, in the case of pregnant women, miscarriages and premature delivery.

The chicken was distributed by a company called Big Daddy Foods, Inc., and found its way to Florida food banks. The USDA’s Farmers to Families Food Box program helps families with food insecurity by providing meals and ingredients. It was started in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic that ravaged the U.S. and many other countries, costing jobs and pushing many families toward food hardships. It provided over 170 million boxes of meats, produce, dairy products, and other foods to families across the United States. The project has had a good run but was only designed to be a temporary emergency relief program. It is scheduled to wrap up at the end of May.

As for this unfortunate recall, the USDA provides the following identifying information:

The frozen, fully cooked, diced chicken items were packed on Jan. 25, 2021, Jan. 26, 2021, March 23, 2021, and March 24, 2021. The following products are subject to the public health alert:

  • 4-lb. plastic bags containing “FULLY COOKED CHICKEN MEAT ¾ DICED WHITE” with code 13530, Est. number P-18237, and pack dates of “01/25/2021” and “01/26/2021.”
  • 4-lb. plastic bags containing “FULLY COOKED CHICKEN MEAT DARK/WHITE ¾ DICED” with code 16598, Est. number P-45638, and pack dates “24/MAR/2021” and “23/MAR/2021.”

Listeria infection is obviously very serious, and it can progress from a gastrointestinal illness to a more severe infection over time. It can take a while for the infection to spread and it may be as long as two months after eating contaminated food that an individual begins to feel the effects.

The USDA is asking that anyone that received these products as part of the Food Box program avoid eating them and throw them away immediately. There’s no sense putting yourself at risk of a potentially life-threatening infection, so if you received some of it, be sure to throw it away and avoid opening the sealed packaging if possible.