Wash your hands, not the bird

6 December, 2006. safefood issues seasonal reminder to consumers - As part of its Christmas campaign, safefood issued food safety advice urging consumers NOT to wash their Christmas bird before placing it in the oven. Research has shown that bacteria such as Campylobacter, which is present in 4 in 10 turkeys, can spread through splashes if washed and can survive for three days or more1 on work surfaces or other food.

Dr. Thomas Quigley, Director, Scientific and Technical, safefood said, “Consumers should be more concerned about washing their hands, than rinsing poultry under the tap, which does little to reduce the number of germs on the surface of poultry. By simply placing the bird directly onto a roasting tray and straight into the oven, consumers can significantly reduce the risk of cross contamination in the kitchen”.

In a survey2 conducted by safefood, 3 out of 4 consumers said they were unaware that poultry should not be washed before placing in the oven.

A recent study, conducted by the University of Limerick showed that when preparing chicken, Campylobacter was detected on 36% of draining boards, 18% of oven handles, 27% of hands and 27% of counter tops. Proper cooking is the only way to kill any bacteria that are present on raw turkey.

“The importance of hand washing is often underestimated and research has shown that 40% of diarrhoeal illnesses can be prevented by hand washing. Failure to implement good food safety behaviour including handwashing during food preparation can result in contamination of food and the kitchen itself”, continued Dr. Quigley. “By washing your hands after handling raw food you can really reduce the risks of getting food poisoning, helping to make it a safe and happy Christmas”, he added.

So the message is clear for consumers this Christmas, wash your hands, not the bird.

Further food safety information and a copy of the leaflet “A safe and healthy Christmas with safefood” is available from www.safefood.eu or by calling the safefood helpline on 1850 40 45 67

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For further information please contact

Andrew Hyland / Niamh Burdett


Tel: 01 6690030 087 9088 322 (Andrew) 086 6086 764 (Niamh)


Fiona Gilligan


Tel: (01) 448 0060

Editor's Notes

¹03-RESR-013 Persistence and dissemination of Salmonella and Campylobacter in domestic kitchen. Led by Prof. David McDowell, University of Ulster at Jordanstown ²safetrak Wave 6 March 2006