Wash Your Hands …Not Your Poultry
Despite recommendations against the practice, some consumers persist in washing raw poultry before cooking. Historically, we equate washing to cleanliness. We wash clothes, linens, cars, dishes and ourselves. So, some people believe meat and poultry can be made cleaner and safer by washing. Is this true?
We can look to research to answer this question. A study by European researchers found that there is actually a potential increase in the risk of foodborne illness for individuals who wash chicken before eating it. The researchers found the bacteria already present in chicken can travel up to three feet from where the meat is washed, contaminating surfaces across the kitchen. And failure to clean these contaminated areas leads to more cases of foodborne illness.
And while washing may appear to make chicken or turkey look “cleaner,” washing actually fails to dislodge harmful bacteria which may be adhering to the surface of the poultry carcass. Researchers from the University of Georgia found that once bacteria are firmly attached, rinsing will not effectively remove them. Dr. H Lillard found that bacteria could still be recovered from the 40th rinse of a single chicken carcass. The bacteria that are dislodged could be spreading to your hands, the sink, your countertops, and other surfaces, but most would remain and would only be destroyed by cooking to a safe internal temperature.
Follow these steps to keep your family food-safe:Separate – Use different cutting boards for meat, poultry, seafood, and vegetables and keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs apart from foods that won’t be cooked.
Cook – Use a food thermometer – it is difficult to tell if a food item is done by how it looks. Cook all meat to a safe internal temperature.
Source: Barbara Ingham, UW-Extension Food Safety Specialist