Food Safety: General
For many years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has recommended that poultry should not be washed prior to or during meal preparation. The reason for this recommendation is to prevent the spread of foodborne pathogens such as Salmonella or Campylobacter to kitchen surfaces and potentially other foods in the prep area.
An August report from the USDA Food Safety Inspection Service detailed research done in test kitchens to investigate what happens when poultry is washed or rinsed in a kitchen setting. Researchers asked participants to prepare both raw chicken and salad. They found that study participants who washed their chicken were more likely to spread bacteria to their salad and their sink than those who did not wash their chicken.
Specifically, researchers found that 60 percent of the participants who washed their raw poultry had bacteria in their sink after washing or rinsing the poultry. Even more concerning is that 14 percent still had bacteria in their sinks after they attempted to clean the sink. Additionally, 26 percent of participants that washed raw poultry transferred bacteria from that raw poultry to their ready to eat salad lettuce.
Of the participants that did not wash their raw poultry, the study found 31 percent still managed to get bacteria from the raw poultry onto their salad lettuce. This high rate of cross-contamination was likely due to a lack of effective handwashing and contamination of the sink and utensils.
Tips for Meal Preparation
- Prepare foods that will not be cooked such as salads, fruits, and fresh vegetables first.
- If you feel that cleaning the surface of the chicken is necessary instead of washing chicken in the sink, a good alternative is to use either dry disposable paper towels to remove excess moisture or disposable paper towels moistened with water to wipe the surface.
- Lather your hands with soap for 20 seconds then washing it off with water immediately after handling raw poultry.
- Clean sinks and countertops with hot soapy water after preparing raw poultry.
- After cleaning sinks and countertops, also sanitize the area with a disinfectant wipe or spray.
- Washing, rinsing, or brining meat and poultry in salt water, vinegar or lemon juice does not destroy bacteria.
- Cook poultry to a minimum internal temperature of 165°F as measured at the thickest part with a meat thermometer.