More than 2 million pounds of chicken are being recalled due to contamination, “specifically metal,” the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service announced Wednesday.
The USDA has urged consumers to dispose of these products and retailers to throw away their frozen supplies, but what could happen if someone eats chicken contaminated with metal?
Dr. Baruch Fertel, an emergency physician at the Cleveland Clinic, says it depends on the amount eaten.
“If they’re small pieces, it’s probably something completely innocuous and whatever we ingest will come out in our stool,” he said. “People ingest things like pennies and coins and it just comes out.”
However, metal pieces in food can be dangerous if they’re sharp enough, no matter how small the size. In a worst-case scenario, Fertel says a particularly sharp piece of metal could cause a perforation, or cut a hole, into a vital organ like the esophagus or intestines.
Signs of a bowel injury could include severe pain, vomiting, fever and a tender abdomen, he said.
Fertel added that pain with swallowing or “inner hard” chest pain could be a sign of esophagus damage.
If the metal pieces are big enough, they could also block the intestines. Symptoms of a blockage include worsening abdominal pain, not being able to defecate and in the late stages, vomiting.
However, he also notes that someone would likely notice the metal while eating if it was big enough to cause a blockage.
Food poisoning is also another common cause for chicken recalls
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, food poisoning can be a result of raw chicken contaminated with Campylobacter bacteria and sometimes with salmonella and Clostridium perfringens bacteria.
Symptoms of the Campylobacter infection include usually have diarrhea or bloody stool, fever, abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting, the CDC says on its website. They can usually start within two to five after exposure to the bacteria and can last for about a week.
The CDC reports about 1.2 million cases of salmonella in the U.S. every year. People who are infected can experience diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps lasting about four to seven days between 12 and 72 hours after infection.