Don’t wash your chicken!

As a microbiologist, I am usually my family’s first port of call for all things food safety advice-related. Over the years, I’m sure they have grown a little tired of hearing me say "Put that in the fridge", "How long has that food been open?", "Don’t forget to wash your hands/knives/chopping boards", "Whatever you do don’t wash the chicken".

It’s that last one that often gets a reaction.

"Wait, what? You said don’t wash the chicken? But we’ve always washed the chicken - Granny used to wash the Christmas turkey too; I thought it was covered in germs!?"

They’re right about the last one - raw poultry like chicken and turkey can contain germs such as Campylobacter, but when you wash it under the tap all you end up doing is spreading the germs around your kitchen. So washing it makes your kitchen dirtier! In fact, research tells us that splashing water can spread the germs up to 80cm, or about an arm’s length from your sink.

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. Also, you should store raw chicken, covered, in a dish at the bottom of the fridge. And when handling and preparing raw chicken, you should always wash your hands and utensils with hot soapy water – steps like these will help to protect your family from food poisoning.

That might sound really obvious but Campylobacter is still the most common cause of bacterial food poisoning on the island, with over 3,000 cases in 2012. Those most at risk are the under 5s and the elderly. This is why safefood, together with the Food Standards Agency in Northern Ireland, are reminding you not to wash raw chicken and help to reduce your family’s risk of infection from Campylobacter.

dont wash raw chicken iconAs I type this at my kitchen table, I’m looking at my sink where I can see clean dishes, a bowl of fruit and the chalk my children use to draw hop scotch outside - All well within that 80cm splashzone. So the next time you’re preparing raw chicken for your family and you reach for the tap, maybe think again! Think again!


Posted: 02/11/2014 13:22:44 by Linda Gordon
Filed under: Campylobacter, chicken, Food poisoning, 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.