Experts explain chicken nugget recall based on wood-chip complaints

These Perdue chicken nuggets have been recalled. (Photo: Perdue)
These Perdue chicken nuggets have been recalled. (Photo: Perdue)

If you currently have chicken nuggets in your freezer, you’ll want to give them a closer look. Perdue Foods is recalling 68,244 pounds of gluten-free chicken nuggets because of wood contamination.

The nuggets in question are specifically 22-ounce plastic bag packages of Perdue SimplySmart Organics Breaded Chicken Breast Nuggets Gluten Free, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). The nuggets have a best by date of Oct. 25, 2019, and a UPC bar code of 72745-80656.

The issue was discovered after Perdue received three consumer complaints from people who found wood in their nuggets and (understandably) weren’t happy about it. No one has reportedly been injured or become sick after eating the nuggets, FSIS says.

Perdue said in a press release that there have been no reported issues with wood with the rest of its products. “We strongly believe this to be an isolated incident, as only a minimal amount of these packages has the potential to contain pieces of wood,” the company said in the release. However, they said, they issued the recall “out of an abundance of caution.”

But… wood?! Why?

“Wood chips and metal shards can end up in our food if a piece of machinery breaks off in the food processing chain,” food safety expert Felicia Wu, PhD, a professor at Michigan State University, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “That could be anywhere along the chain for processed foods.”

Some companies use X-rays to measure density in their foods and look for any contaminants before they hit shelves, but “wood might be harder to find in that step,” Darin Detwiler, director of the regulatory affairs of the Food and Food Industries program at Northeastern University, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. And while we often hear about recalls due to salmonella, listeria and other pathogens, this kind of recall is more common than you’d think — it just doesn’t usually make the news. “There are a lot of recalls due to rubber, plastic, glass, metal shavings and physical debris that can cause harm,” Detwiler says. “This is nothing new.”

Unfortunately, “the more processed the food is, the more chances there are that the food encounters machinery that could accidentally ‘shed’ parts into the food,” Wu says. “If this is something that concerns consumers, they would best be able to avoid the problem by not buying and eating heavily processed foods.”

If you’re particularly worried about you or your child biting into contaminated nuggets in the future, Detwiler recommends making your own chicken nuggets, if you can. “You can buy raw chicken and make chicken nuggets yourself,” he says. “Just bread it and cook it. The more we use the actual raw, whole product, the lower your chance of contamination.”

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