In order to keep dirt, germs and bacteria at bay in the kitchen, most people do not think twice about washing foods before they are prepared. However, a recent study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows you can put yourself and your family at a greater risk of illness if you wash or rinse raw poultry.
Barbara Brown, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension food specialist, said coming together and sharing meals with friends and family is a special way to spend time together.
“When our friends and family come together, you want to offer your best in terms of taste and quality of the food,” Brown said. “However, food safety must be at the top of the list to ensure everyone’s safety.”
When those meals include poultry, USDA research indicates consumers are better off not washing raw poultry before cooking it. Even when consumers think they are effectively cleaning the areas after washing poultry, the study shows bacteria can easily spread to other surfaces in the kitchen, as well as to other food.
Brown said one of the best methods to preventing the spread of bacteria is to prepare simply not wash raw poultry.
“If poultry is on the menu, it should be the last part of the meal you prepare. Fix all vegetables, salads and other side dishes before handing and preparing raw poultry and other meats,” she said. “The USDA study showed that of the participants who washed raw poultry, 60 percent had bacteria in the sink after washing the poultry. What’s even more concerning is 14 percent of the participants still had bacteria in the sink after they attempted to clean the sink. In addition, more than a quarter of the participants who washed poultry transferred bacteria from that raw poultry to their prepared salad lettuce.”
It is extremely important to clean and sanitize any surface that has potentially touch or been contaminated from raw meat and poultry, or their juices.
The study showed that even when participants did not wash raw poultry, 31 percent still managed to get bacteria on salad lettuce. This high rate of cross-contamination was likely due to a lack of effective handwashing and contamination of the sink and utensils.
“You must clean sinks with hot soapy water and then wipe them down with a sanitizer. After handling the meat, be sure to washing your hands with soap for 20 seconds,” Brown said. “Also, cooking to the correct internal temperature kills bacteria in the meat. Poultry should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.”
For more information about poultry safety, contact your local OSU Cooperative Extension county office. Contact information can be found here by clicking on your county.