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Food Safety Tip: Do Not Wash Raw Chicken

If you have seen it written in any cookbook or have read materials out there telling you to wash raw chicken, it is a dangerous practice and it is the wrong thing to do, according to the latest research.

FOOD SAFETY

When teaching food safety classes, I am often asked whether participants should wash raw chicken before cooking it or not? The answer is definitely-NO. This question inevitably can cause a lot of chatter in the classroom.

Do not wash raw chicken prior to cooking it.

This is a controversial point of discussion because so many have been engaged in washing raw chicken over several generations, as a precaution. Some older adults have been washing raw chicken for years, because their mothers’, mother had washed the chicken and they are going to continue this practice to the present day. They claim, no one ever got sick from washing raw chicken and they are going to continue doing so, to keep themselves and family members healthy by not eating chicken contaminated with salmonella. They simply refuse to stop washing raw chicken. Habits and belief systems can be hard to change.

The research is clear and shows that washing raw chicken has not been proven to prevent an outbreak of salmonella or campylobacter. Washing poultry does not remove the pathogens.

Do you own a food thermometer? If no, it is recommended that you purchase one to check the internal temperature of chicken and other cooked foods to ensure that it is cooked to the correct temperature.

Cooking chicken to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F, will kill harmful germs and

help prevent food poisoning.

Do not rely on the sight, color, or taste of the chicken to ensure doneness in place of using a food thermometer! Using a food thermometer is the only reliable way to ensure that the proper internal temperature has been reached and any foodborne bacteria has been destroyed.

The current science recommends killing germs by cooking not by washing. Again, the washing of raw chicken is not necessary and more importantly is not recommended when it comes to preparing chicken.

Check out and understand the science and research behind the recommendation; washing raw chicken is an outdated practice. Let me see if I can convince you to stop rinsing and washing raw poultry…

Chicken is a good source of protein.  It can be eaten in so many ways-baked, fried, grilled, stewed, and roasted are a few.  Millions of people consume lean/low-fat chicken every year as part of a well-balanced and nutritious diet.  On MyPlate (the food guide icon), chicken falls under the protein group as a food source.  Three ounces of lean, roasted chicken provides approximately 170 calories and 25 grams of protein. Think about nutrition and food safety when shopping for and preparing any type of meat, poultry, or eggs.

 

SHOPPING

When shopping for poultry, place it in a disposable, plastic bag before putting it in your grocery cart.  Make sure the bagger, at the store, keeps raw chicken in a separate bag too. Then keep it in a leak proof bag, or separate container, as you place it into your home refrigerator, to prevent juices from getting onto other food items. Place raw chicken and/or meat on the lowest shelf (bottom shelf) of your refrigerator, to prevent juices from dripping from a top shelf to a lower shelf, possibly contaminating other food items. Clean reusable shopping bags that have been in contact with raw meat or poultry juice(s) and/or cracked eggs. The reusable bag should be washed with soap and water and then air dried.

HANDWASHING

Wash your hands, not the chicken! The CDC recommends washing your hands with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling raw chicken or meat. Read on…

 

FOOD PREPARATION

In the kitchen, always use a separate cutting board for raw chicken.  Wash and sanitize the cutting board after each use and wash cooking utensils, dishes, pots and pans, countertops, and the sink with hot soapy water after preparing chicken and before you prepare the next food item.

Never place cooked food on a plate, cutting board or other surface that previously held raw chicken or other raw meat.

Do not cross-contaminate!

THE RESEARCH-FOOD SCIENCE
  • Some researchers have spent their whole career studying this very topic. Always put food safety practices and ensuring the health and safety of you and your family first. Science changes as more research is conducted and conclusions are reached.
  • Washing raw chicken can spread germs and spread the splashed raw juices to other foods, cooking utensils, the countertop and in the sink.
  • Foodborne illness affects approximately 48 million people each year, leading to 128,000 hospitalizations and in some cases even death. There are many types of bacteria that can spread in the kitchen.  Chicken can be contaminated with microbes such as campylobacter bacteria, salmonella, or clostridium perfringens bacteria.

According to, Dr. Amarat Simonne, UF/IFAS Food Safety and Quality Specialist, a body of research revealed that washing raw chicken can spread germs in your kitchen (due to splash) more than gaining benefits of reducing the number of germs, and only proper cooking will kill the germs. Therefore, it is not recommended to wash raw chicken prior to cooking in your kitchen.  Do not release the microbes, which are germs, which can propagate and spread.

WHAT SHOULD YOU CONSIDER?

Remember food safety principles do apply during all types of food preparation: clean, separate, cook, and chill. If you think the chicken you are served at a backyard cookout, at a restaurant or from a curbside meal is not fully cooked, send it back (return it) for more cooking or cook it further at home in the microwave.  Use a meat thermometer to check the internal final temperature to check for doneness and prevent foodborne illness. Refrigerate or freeze leftover chicken within two hours. This is known as the two-hour rule. You are better safe than sorry. Consider the options. When in doubt, do not eat it and throw it out!

 

CONCLUSION

The research says, do not wash raw chicken but wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water.  Washing raw chicken can splash germs to other surfaces and may cause the transfer of germs to other foods and/or surfaces.  Avoid the splash! (Splashed water may be contaminated water.) Failing to use a food thermometer, when cooking chicken, is an unsafe practice, in home kitchens. Keep food safety in mind (clean, separate, cook, and chill) when cooking chicken and keep your kitchen and utensils clean and sanitized to avoid a costly foodborne illness.

After reading this blog, will you stop washing raw chicken, prior to cooking? Will you purchase a food thermometer if you do not already own one?

I hope this article has motivated you to follow the recommended practices. Please reply in the comment section.

For More Information

UF/IFAS Extension, Food Safety- https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_food_safety

The Partnership for Food Safety Education/Fight Bac- https://www.fightbac.org/

MyPlate- https://www.myplate.gov/

MyPlate/Protein Foods- https://www.myplate.gov/eat-healthy/protein-foods

USDA/FSIS, Chicken and Turkey-Nutrition Facts- https://www.fsis.usda.gov/shared/PDF/Chicken_Turkey_Nutrition_Facts.pdf

CDC/Handwashing- https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/index.html

CDC/Foodborne germs and illnesses- https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/foodborne-germs.html

Journal of Food Protection article on splashing-https://meridian.allenpress.com/jfp/article/78/1/180/174434/Consumer-Reported-Handling-of-Raw-Poultry-Products

One Comment on “Food Safety Tip: Do Not Wash Raw Chicken

  1. Thank you for the feedback. I appreciate it.
    Food safety is important!

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