Chicken even more popular with consumers but still needs careful handling

10 Sept, 2012. A new review¹ of the chicken food chain on the island of Ireland reveals a highly regulated industry, adhering to rigorous international standards. However with eight out of ten adults now eating chicken every week, consumers need to be reminded to ensure that chicken is cooked and handled properly to avoid foodborne illnesses.

The review is the latest in an ongoing series of food chain reviews by safefood, the all island agency responsible for promoting food safety and healthy eating, and continues their work in helping consumers make more informed choices about the food they eat.

Speaking about the review, Dr. Aileen McGloin, Scientific Support Manager, safefood said:

While consumers seem highly aware of the food safety issues around chicken, our research² has shown that unsafe practices, such as rinsing chicken under the tap, persist.”

Tests carried out at retail stage found levels of Salmonella in chicken and chicken products have fallen in recent years while levels of Campylobacter remain static. “Given the likely presence of these bacteria on raw chicken, consumers represent an important link in the food chain and need to remain vigilant in how they handle raw chicken and its packaging. Washing chicken is unnecessary and can spread droplets around the kitchen contaminating surfaces. Chicken products prepared for direct sale to consumers are ‘oven ready’ and do not need further washing”, added Dr. McGloin.

While safefood highlights the vital role of the consumer in the food chain, it also calls on the industry to continue to make every effort to minimize the risk of bacteria such as Campylobacter, as well as to work with regulatory bodies to address this and other consumer concerns.
The review also found that almost 90% of chicken meat used in the catering industry is sourced from outside the island of Ireland. According to safefood’s research, consumers regard country of origin as a key determinant in their purchase choice. “Consumers told us they associate country of origin with food safety and choose locally-produced chicken as they perceive it to be ‘safer’ than imported varieties. However this choice cannot be made by consumers eating chicken outside the home as there is still no requirement on caterers to label the source of their chicken”, continued Dr. McGloin.
“Labelling³ continues to be an ongoing issue that consumers tell us they are concerned about and a lack of information at point of purchase or the catering stage of the food chain further compounds this. It is hoped that new legislation from the EU due in 2015 requiring country of origin labelling on all poultry and meats will help with addressing this.”

“Chicken is a highly versatile, safe and nutritious food that is a healthy and cost-effective choice for consumers and an excellent source of protein in our diets. Once the simple hygiene steps are followed by consumers in their own homes they can continue to enjoy chicken without any worries”, added Dr. McGloin.
safefood’s review was undertaken in conjunction with an advisory group drawn from across the chicken industry and scientists across the island of Ireland.

The review, “A Consumer Focused Review of the Chicken Food Chain” is available to download from the safefood website.

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For more information, please contact:

Orla Dormer/Susie Cunningham, WHPR
Tel: 01 669 0030
Mobile: 085 708 6877 / 087 850 5055
Fiona Gilligan, safefood
+353 1 448 0600 / 087 9891682 (mobile) or


¹safefood Consumer Focused Review of Chicken (2012)
²Millward Brown Lansdowne/safefood Consumer Focus Groups 2011
³Millward Brown Lansdowne/safefood Safetrak Consumer research 2011

Editor’s notes

safefood advises consumers to take the following measures when preparing or handling chicken:

  • chicken meat should not be washed as washing creates aerosols which increases the risk of cross-contamination
  • packaging materials should be handled and disposed of carefully
  • all utensils and surfaces that come into contact with raw chicken or chicken packaging should be cleaned after use
  • hands should be washed thoroughly after handling raw poultry meat
  • raw chicken should be stored in the refrigerator at 5°C or less
  • raw chicken should be covered when stored in the refrigerator on the bottom shelf to keep it away from ready-to-eat foods.
  • raw chicken should be placed in separate bags or containers during transport home from the retailer
  • chicken should be cooked thoroughly until it is piping hot all the way through, the meat is no longer pink and the juices run clear
  • leftover chicken should always be reheated until piping hot all the way through and should NEVER be reheated more than once
  • refrigerated leftover chicken should be eaten within three days

Background to Consumer Focused Review

Safefood initiated a programme in 2005 of comprehensive food chain reviews over a three year period with each review profiling a specific food category. The food categories covered were Beef; Chicken; Pork; Finfish; Fruit & Vegetables, Food Origins and Milk. As some time has passed since these reviews were first published, safefood is revisiting each of them in order to update their content and ensure consumers are informed of any changes that have arisen in that time.