The National Chicken Council (NCC) has submitted a supplement to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to update its 2016 petition requesting that FSIS adopt regulations establishing labeling requirements for not-ready-to-eat (NRTE) stuffed chicken breast products that may appear ready-to-eat (RTE).
The petition was first filed by NCC on May 24, 2016. The supplement updates the petition to reflect updates in "collective understanding" of these chicken products.
NCC believes some consumers may be unsure of the proper handling and cooking methods for NRTE stuffed chicken products that may appear RTE, and the proposed measures are necessary to ensure proper handling and cooking of these products. FSIS has demonstrated in the past that adding information to labels, such as warning statement and validated cooking instructions, is the best way to address products when consumers may need additional information to ensure that they consume these products safely.
In September 2021, the National Advisory Committee on Meat and Poultry Inspection (NACMPI) held a public meeting to discuss the topic of NRTE stuffed chicken breast products that may appear RTE. The subcommittee was asked the following questions:
- Given FSIS’ consumer research findings and an open multistate Salmonella Enteritidis illness outbreak, should FSIS re-verify that companies continue to voluntarily label these products as raw in several places on the label and include validated cooking instructions?
- What, if any, actions can FSIS take to prevent and reduce illnesses associated with the handling or consumption of these NRTE products? For example, should FSIS:
- Conduct exploratory sampling for pathogens and/or indicator organisms in these and other similar raw, stuffed, or non-stuffed partially processed products?
- Require establishments to apply a lethality treatment to ensure that all products are RTE?
- Sample these products for Salmonella because consumers customarily undercook them?
- Require establishments that produce these products to reassess their Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points plans, in light of outbreak data?
- Conduct targeted consumer outreach? If so, please provide some ideas on the best approaches.
The subcommittee concluded that FSIS should reverify the labeling and validate cooking instructions for these products. The labels should also include language to warm consumers not to use microwaves or air fryers if validated cooking instructions are not provided for these products.
For these reasons, NCC maintains and requests that FSIS take the following actions:
- Conduct a rulemaking to adopt a regulation requiring that NRTE stuffed chicken breast products that appear RTE be labeled to clearly inform consumers that the products are raw and how to properly handle and cook them
- 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.”
Specifically, NCC requests that FSIS amend Part 381 of Title 9 of the Code of Federal Regulations to add a new subsection (c) to Section 381.125.