Why You Need To Stop Washing Raw Chicken

The age-old practice could be sickening your family.

June 18, 2014
raw chicken
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With July Fourth barbeques right around the corner, there's a lot of prep that goes into creating meals, ones that often feature chicken. Experts say it's okay to wash your fruits and veggies but are now warning to lay off rinsing poultry prior to cooking. Contrary to what your mother taught you, it's not safe.

While the campaign to stop raw poultry washing circulated throughout the United States last year, British public health officials are now also urging people to stop washing raw chicken and other poultry because it can result in splashing potentially deadly bacteria three feet from your sink.

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According to the FDA, rinsing raw poultry promotes the spread of a nasty germ called campylobacter. You've likely heard of Salmonella and E. coli bacteria, but campylobacter is lesser known—although you'll never forget it if it sickens you. The foodborne illness is characterized by abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, and vomiting—and in more severe cases it can lead to irritable bowel syndrome, reactive arthritis, and Guillan-Barre syndrome, a serious condition of the nervous system. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says campylobacter-related infections sicken more than 1.3 million people a year in the U.S. While it's not usually fatal, it is responsible for 76 deaths in the U.S. each year.

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It's an unnecessary risk the raw poultry-rinsing population (44 percent do this!) doesn't have to take. Rinsing raw chicken and other poultry helps bacteria spread through splashing water droplets that often land on your hands, work surfaces, clothing, and cooking equipment.

So how can you prevent getting you and your family sick? The FDA says it's easy—just follow four simple steps to prevent campylobacter and other food borne illnesses.

#1. Clean Everything. The FDA advices to wash your hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling any food and to wash any food contact surfaces like cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and countertops after preparing each food item and before going on to the next.

#2. Don't Wash Raw Poultry. Proper cooking will kill off harmful pathogens, and resisting the urge to rinse will keep bacteria-filled droplets from showering you and your kitchen.

#3. Don't Cross-Contaminate. Don't put your raw poultry on the same surface as your fruits and veggies. Promptly wash prep surfaces with soapy water; for an even deeper clean, you can spray with white vinegar, and then hydrogen peroxide over that, to kill germs. (Just be sure to do a spot check first so you don't discolor the surface.)

#4. Cook To Kill. Use a meat thermometer to test the internal temperature of meat. Poultry needs to reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the meat to ensure the death of harmful pathogens.

#5. Refrigerate! Refrigerate foods like leftovers and takeout within two hours because mold and bacteria can also grow at room temperature at a rapid rate.

Learn about these other nine appalling meat facts to protect your family from even more unnecessary threats.