Don’t wash your chicken!

As a microbiologist, I am usually my family’s first port of call for food safety advice (although I don’t believe my brother really needed a microbiologist to tell him not to eat the beef casserole that had been sitting in the back of his car for two days!).

Over the years, I’m sure they have grown tired of hearing me say ‘put that in the fridge’, ‘how long has that been open?’, ‘don’t forget to wash your hands/knives/chopping boards’, ‘whatever you do don’t wash the chicken’.

‘Wait, what, don’t wash the chicken? But we’ve always washed the chicken, granny used to wash the Christmas turkey; I thought it was covered in germs?’

Raw poultry can contain germs such as Campylobacter, so when you wash it under the tap all you are doing is spreading the germs around your kitchen. In fact, research tells us that splashing water can spread the germs up to 80cm from your sink.

Campylobacter is the most common cause of bacterial food poisoning on the island of Ireland, with over 3,000 cases in 2012. Those most vulnerable to this illness are the very young and the elderly.

raw chicken under the tapThis is why during Food Safety Week safefood, together with the Food Standards Agency in Northern Ireland, and your local Environmental Health Service, are asking you not to wash raw chicken to help reduce your family’s risk of infection from Campylobacter.

The truth is that cooking your chicken properly (piping hot at the centre, with clear juices and no pink meat) will kill Campylobacter, and any other food poisoning germs present, so there really is no need to wash the chicken. Follow this advice, and other food safety tips such as storing your raw chicken in a covered dish at the bottom of the fridge and washing utensils with hot soapy water, and you will help to protect your family’s health.

I am writing this at my kitchen table and just glancing at my sink I can see clean dishes, a bowl of fruit and the chalk my children use to draw on the patio, all well within that 80cm range. So the next time you’re preparing raw chicken for your family and you reach for the tap, just take a look at what’s next to your sink, and don’t!

Watch the video


Posted: 13/06/2014 09:10:34 by Linda Gordon
Filed under: Campylobacter, Chicken, Food safety

About Me

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Linda Gordon
Hi, my name is Linda Gordon and I am Chief Specialist in Food Science with safefood. I’m a microbiologist and my work involves research into food safety, addressing queries on a range of food hygiene and safety issues, and managing our Knowledge Networks, which connect food safety professionals across the island of Ireland. I live in County Cork with my husband and two young sons. In my free time I love walking my (very elderly) Labrador, books, Scandinavian crime dramas, and eating the fantastic meals my husband cooks.