Rinsing raw poultry spreads bacteria

Credit: Wiki Commons
Fruits and vegetables should still be rinsed in the sink. Credit: Wiki Commons

The common practice of washing raw chicken before cooking it could actually do more to spread harmful bacteria.

“It doesn’t help,” said Jennifer Quinlan, a food safety expert. “You’re not making it any safer.”

Quinlan, who works with a team of dinner-disaster preventers as an associate professor at Drexel University, said 90 precent of Philadelphians surveyed said they washed raw chicken in the sink before they stuck it in the oven.

And apparently they’re wrong. Washing raw pork or raw poultry in the sink will likely spread bacteria that can cause food-borne illness, Quinlan said.

We know, we know, we’re told to rinse fruits and vegetables under the faucet before we stuff them in the fridge.

“There is a bit of a mixed message,” Quinlan said.

Pesticides and dirt, more chemical-related gunk, is what you’re washing off the produce.

“Whereas the poultry is a dead animal,” she said, “We know that there is going to be dead pathogens on it.”

Quinlan’s study originally focused on unique food safety risks for minority and low-income populations. Further research showed the chicken-washing trend transcends race, color and creed.

In the end, it’s what you don’t do that could mean the difference between safe eating and a health hazard.

“Just skip this step,”Quinlan said, “and you decrease your chances of spreading it.”

Take these precautions

• Designate one cutting board for only raw poultry.

• Use plastic cutting boards for raw poultry.

• Place cutting boards in the dishwasher immediately after using, or use hot soapy water.

What about the sponge?

Sponges should be placed in dishwashers after contact with raw poultry, or put in the microwave for 1 minute to kill stray bacteria. Or use paper towels.

What if you don’t have a cutting board?

Don’t cut it on the counter. Cut the meat inside its original package and inside the cooking pan.

To see more prepping instructions, visit the Don’t Wash Your Chicken campaign.


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