I thoroughly wash my fruits and vegetables before serving. Washing removes lingering dirt and other questionable substances on the surface.
Surely, it’s reasonable to assume that washing raw chicken would be okay too, right? Many suspicious-looking things inhabit raw chicken, including slime, skin, fat and blood, that we’re not keen on cooking.
Yet, washing raw chicken prior to cooking is one common mistake that causes more harm than good in many kitchens. In fact, it is not necessary to wash raw poultry to ensure its safety, according to the U.S. Department Of Agriculture (USDA).
Although it may seem counterintuitive, washing raw chicken does not benefit you or your family’s health. Washing raw chicken spreads bacteria that cause cross-contamination.
Washing Raw Chicken Comes With Risks
A study conducted by the USDA found that participants wash and rinse raw chicken for a variety of reasons:
- 30% do so to remove slime, skin, fat and blood
- 28% do so out of habit
- 19% does so because a family member they trust did it this way
- 19% do it to remove harmful bacteria and germs
An observational study showed that 60% of those persons who washed and rinsed their raw poultry were left with lingering bacteria in their sinks afterward. And, what’s more shocking, after sanitizing, 14% were still left with harmful bacteria.
Additionally, another startling 26% of people that washed lettuce after washing and rinsing their raw poultry transferred that bacteria to their fresh produce.
These studies carried out by the USDA show that regardless of the motivation for washing and rinsing, such practices are unnecessary and risky.
Stop Washing Your Raw Chicken
Using the sink to wash raw poultry increases the risk of cross-contamination in the kitchen, leading to foodborne illness. Consequently, when washing raw poultry, bacteria that live on the surface of the meat can be splashed to other surfaces, such as sinks, counters, utensils and walls.
According to the USDA, there is only one way to eliminate foodborne illness-causing bacteria living on chicken. To remove bacteria from poultry, you must cook it to a safe internal temperature of 165°F. Additionally, by keeping a clean kitchen, home cooks are able to reduce cross-contamination on other surfaces.
As a rule of thumb, this means disinfecting the sink, countertops and any surfaces that may have been contaminated with raw chicken juice. Furthermore, following contact with raw meat, wet your hands with either warm or cold water. Then, lather and scrub for at least 20 seconds, as is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).