The short answer is possibly Salmonella poisoning!

There have been 32 cases of Salmonella poisoning in the U.S. linked to people microwaving raw chicken products such as chicken breast Kiev and chicken cordon bleu.

The 32 people who contracted Salmonella lived in 12 different states and an investigation by the Minnesota Department of Health and Minnesota Department of Agriculture found that the cases were all linked because the Salmonella carried the same DNA fingerprint.

This fingerprint was linked to raw, frozen, breaded and stuffed chicken entrees such as chicken Kiev, chicken breast stuffed with cheese or vegetables, and chicken cordon bleu.

The people who became ill appeared not to have followed the instructions on the packaging, which state that the food was uncooked. The instructions did not say they could not be microwaved, but the packaging did specify the instructions to cook the chicken meals in a conventional oven.

The people who got ill perhaps assumed that as the chicken products looked like ready meals, and were stuffed, pre-browned and breaded they did not need to be cooked in an oven like a whole raw chicken.

Theoretically, at least, there is no problem with cooking raw meat in a microwave, but you must remember that it’s not the same as heating a pre-cooked ready meal. The meat must reach an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees F, or 74 degrees C to kill any food borne bacteria present in the meat. The only way to do that accurately is to use a food thermometer.

Salmonella bacterium can be life threatening to certain groups of people, including the elderly, small babies, people with HIV or people going through chemotherapy.

The symptoms usually appear within 72 hours of eating contaminated food, and include abdominal cramps, diarrhea and fever. It can also include vomiting, headache and chills that can last up to a week.

How to Protect Yourself From Salmonella

These guidelines should help keep you and your family safe from the Salmonella bacterium:

• Wash your hands before and after handling raw poultry. The water should be warm, and you should wash with soap for 20 seconds or more.

• Mop up any spills immediately.

• Wash cutting boards, utensils and dishes with soap and hot water. Keep separate chopping boards for raw meat, poultry, egg products and cooked food.

• Keep raw meat and poultry in the refrigerator, and don’t leave it out for more than two hours at room temperature. If the room temp is 90 deg F or more, don’t leave it out for more than an hour.

• Cook raw meat and poultry to the safe internal temperatures before eating. For poultry, this is 165 deg F, for beef and pork it is 160 deg F. Use a food thermometer to test the temperature – it’s the only accurate way to check.

• Put cooked meat and poultry in the refrigerator within two hours of cooking.