2 Million Pounds of Ready-to-Eat Chicken Recalled: Here's Why It's Risky

A plate of grilled chicken and potatoes
(Image credit: Chicken meal photo via Shutterstock)

About 2 million pounds of ready-to-eat chicken products have been recalled because the meat could be undercooked. But what types of bacteria could be lurking in such products as undercooked poultry?

On Sunday (Dec. 4), the food manufacturing company National Steak and Poultry announced a recall of more than 1.9 million pounds of the products, which were produced from Aug. 20, 2016, through Nov. 30, 2016, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The products were shipped to restaurants and fast-food chains throughout the country, and were also sold directly to consumers during a monthly public sale at the company.

The recalled products may have been undercooked, and so they have the potential to contain bacteria, the USDA said. [Top 7 Germs in Food That Make You Sick]

The bacterial pathogens most commonly linked with raw chicken are Salmonella and Campylobacter, said Benjamin Chapman, an associate professor and food safety specialist at North Carolina State University. "They're fairly common foodborne illness pathogens, but could lead to quite serious consequences" if they are consumed, Chapman told Live Science.

Both bacteria can cause diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, and in rare cases, they can cause infections that lead to such long-term health problems as arthritis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Another possible bacterial contaminant of undercooked chicken is Listeria, which can grow at lower temperatures, including refrigerator temperatures, Chapman said. (Ready-to-eat meat products are typically sold refrigerated.)

Cooking any meat product to the right temperature can kill harmful bacteria, but ready-to-eat products pose a risk because consumers naturally don't always cook them, or handle them as if they were raw.

"If I'm told that I don't need to cook it, then I'm less likely to cook it to 165 degrees Fahrenheit [which kills bacteria], because it's marketed to me as you don’t actually have to," Chapman said. "If it looks like it's ready to eat, I'm likely not going to handle it, as a consumer, as stringently, as I would a non-ready to eat meat product."

So far, there have been no reports of health problems linked to the recalled products, the USDA said.

Consumers who bought the recalled products should not eat them, and instead should throw them away or return them to the place where they purchased them, the USDA said.

Original article on Live Science.

Rachael Rettner

Rachael is a Live Science contributor, and was a former channel editor and senior writer for Live Science between 2010 and 2022. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.