The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) today announced its final determination to declare Salmonella an adulterant in raw breaded stuffed chicken products when they exceed a specific threshold for Salmonella contamination.

Not ready-to-eat (NRTE) frozen, raw, breaded, stuffed chicken products would include products like Chicken Cordon Bleu and Chicken Kiev. They are typically sold raw, labeled to indicate their raw nature, and must be cooked properly following the instructions on the package.

Under this determination, FSIS will consider to be adulterated any raw breaded stuffed chicken products that include a chicken component that tested positive for Salmonella at 1 CFU per gram or higher, essentially zero tolerance.

“NCC is gravely concerned that the precedent set by this abrupt shift in longstanding policy has the potential to shutter processing plants, cost jobs, and take safe food and convenient products off shelves. We’re also surprised by FSIS’s victory lap here when the agency has no idea if this will move the needle on public health,” said NCC President Mike Brown in response.

NCC estimates that on an annual basis, over 200 million servings of this product will be lost, 500-1000 people will lose their jobs, and the annual cost to industry is significantly higher than USDA’s estimates. It is likely that this proposal would drive smaller producers of this product out of business entirely.

“USDA has devoted untold amounts of time, effort, and taxpayer dollars – and is willing to drive up grocery store prices for consumers and impose millions of dollars of costs on American businesses – all to develop a policy intended to reduce foodborne illness outbreaks for a product that hasn’t even been associated with an outbreak in three years and that has been associated with only one outbreak in the past nine years,” Brown continued.

“NCC strongly supports effective public health measures and science-driven policy. USDA’s determination is neither.

“What has been shown to be effective is clear and effective labeling, robust process controls, and attention to raw material sourcing. NCC members have implemented these and other best practices, and NCC has repeatedly asked USDA to make many of these best practices mandatory, with no response.

“There is no silver bullet or one-size-fits all approach to food safety, which is why we employ a multi-hurdle strategy. The only way to ensure our food is safe 100 percent of the time is by following science-based procedures when raising and processing chicken, and by handling and cooking it properly at home.

“NCC remains confident these products can be prepared and consumed safely, and NCC member companies will continue to work day in and day out to implement sound, science-based food safety programs that will continue to make America’s most popular protein even safer,” Brown concluded.


FSIS and has long interpreted the Poultry Products Inspection Act such that Salmonella is not an adulterant in raw poultry, a view reinforced by federal courts as well. Chicken processors take a number of steps to reduce and control Salmonella during processing, and final customary consumer cooking to an internal temperature of at least 165°F destroys any Salmonella that may remain. FSIS has never, since the Poultry Products Inspection Act was passed in 1957, taken the view that the mere presence of Salmonella on raw poultry renders the product adulterated.

Fourteen outbreaks associated with these products have been investigated by public health officials since 1998. Prior to one 2021 outbreak, the last multistate outbreak of NRTE stuffed chicken products was in 2015, meaning one outbreak in the past nine years.

In the 2021 investigation, some consumers reportedly did not cook the stuffed chicken products using a validated process (oven), as described on the product label, to ensure that the product was thoroughly cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F. Instead, some consumers reported using a microwave or air fryer.

As a result of this outbreak, and other previous pre-2015 outbreaks associated with these products, FSIS sought advice from the National Advisory Committee on Meat and Poultry Inspection (NACMPI), which advises FSIS on matters affecting Federal inspection program activities.  NCC viewed this as a welcomed step toward more direct involvement to reinforce efforts for this product class. The NACMPI subcommittee reported several recommendations to FSIS, many of which presented practical steps that could be taken immediately and which NCC supported, and none of which was to declare Salmonella an adulterant in these products.

Additionally, NCC has twice petitioned FSIS asking for mandatory and stricter labels for these products, to help consumers better understand the proper cooking procedures. Neither petition has received a response. This approach was also recommended by NACMPI.

In addition, NCC in August 2022 wrote to FSIS leadership asking the agency to draw on existing regulatory tools and policies and offered seven specific, rigorous steps that we believe would have an impact on public health. We have yet to receive a response to the letter.

Even though Salmonella was not considered an adulterant in these products, the industry has treated their safety as a top priority for more than a decade. These efforts have included obtaining source material from Category 1 establishments, testing source material, testing other product ingredients, revising labels to emphasize these products’ raw nature and proper cooking requirements, researching consumer understanding of labels, and even evaluating palatability and consumer acceptance of fully cooked versions of these products.