Don’t wash raw chicken or turkey before cooking it

Germs can be spread all over your kitchen when washing raw poultry and contaminate other foods and surfaces so don’t do it.

Raw chicken and turkey is often contaminated with bacteria, including Salmonella, Campylobacter, or other bacteria, some of which can cause foodborne illnesses. It is important to remember proper sanitation techniques in the kitchen to minimize cross-contamination of bacteria to other surfaces and foods. Foods that will not be cooked could be prepared first and removed from the area while raw meat or poultry is being prepared. All surfaces should be washed, rinsed and sanitized after working with meat and poultry.

Recent educational efforts and a “don’t wash your chicken” campaign from Drexel University showed that bacteria can be splattered all over the kitchen and other foods if it is washed before cooking. The educational effort by Drexel researchers uses a germ-vision animation created with New Mexico State University to show how far tiny water droplets can travel in the kitchen and spread bacteria. The recommendation is to not wash raw poultry before cooking. Since the bacteria are on the surface of the chicken, they will be killed during the cooking process by heat.

Even if the outside of the chicken is thoroughly cooked and the bacteria are killed, Michigan State University Extension recommends using a meat thermometer. Measure the inside temperature of the poultry to make sure it is done. Poultry should be cooked to 165 degrees F before eating it.

It is also important to properly wash your hands using hot soapy water before and after handling raw meat and poultry and to wash all cutting boards, knives, counter tops and other surfaces that come in contact with the raw meat or poultry. Sometimes color-coded knives and cutting boards can be designated to only be used with raw meat and poultry to help reduce cross-contamination. The combination of hot soapy water and the scrubbing action is what properly cleans hands and surfaces. Antibacterial soap or cleaner is not necessary to use, as regular soap will do the job if friction is applied.

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