Yes, you read that right. If you are in the habit of washing raw chicken before you cook it, STOP. Don’t wash your chicken!
Chicken is the most commonly eaten meat in the United States these days. Whether fried, poached, broiled, baked or added to soups, stews and chili, Americans LOVE to eat chicken.
Many of us learned to rinse or wash raw meat before cooking it. In the case of chicken, this is a bad idea. Raw chicken often carries salmonella, shigella or campylobacter bacteria. If you soak the meat in water, the bacteria get into the water which is easy to spread around your kitchen.
The bacteria commonly found in raw chicken cause food poisoning, also called gastroenteritis. These illnesses cause abdominal pain, fever, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. In severe cases people can have intestinal bleeding or become dehydrated, causing them to need hospitalization for antibiotics, IV fluids and symptom control medications.
If you are cooking with raw meat, especially poultry, cleanliness is very important. Keep the raw meat separate and avoid touching it to anything that can’t be thoroughly cleaned. This includes wooden utensils and cutting boards, which tend to absorb juices and are difficult to sanitize. After handling raw meat wash your hands with hot water and soap for at least 20 seconds (long enough to sing the ABC song twice).
Transfer the meat directly from its packaging to the container it will be cooked in. If you will apply breading to the meat make sure you touch the raw meat with only one hand and keep the other hand clean for touching everything else.
Prevention of foodborne illness means cooking meat thoroughly. Poultry should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F, or until the juices run clear and the meat is opaque all the way through.
Of course, if you really want to be as safe as possible from foodborne illness, just don’t eat meat. At all. In one survey published in 2012, 41% of raw chicken sold in the Alabama was contaminated with Campylobacter. Poultry, fish, shellfish, unpasteurized dairy and eggs are common causes of foodborne illness. Cooking all these foods thoroughly and NOT washing them prior to cooking is essential.
It is true that plant foods are the cause of food poisoning from time to time. Romaine lettuce, anyone? Rice, berries, melon and sprouts are also known to be higher-risk foods. In the case of plant foods, washing them thoroughly before eating them reduces the risk of food-borne infection.
We all want to eat healthy. Healthy, safe cooking means knowing what to wash and what NOT to wash. WASH your fruits, veggies and leafy greens. DON’T wash your chicken!
QUESTION: What do you do to avoid food borne infections?