No, you should not wash raw chicken before cooking. Then why do people still do it?

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A survey by Australia’s Food Safety Information Council found that almost half of Australian home cooks wash whole chicken before cooking.

Food safety agencies and regulators around the world recommend not washing raw poultry before cooking.

That’s because washing chicken can spread dangerous bacteria around the kitchen. It’s best to thoroughly cook the chicken without washing it so it’s safe to eat.

Despite this, washing chickens remains common. A survey by Australia’s Food Safety Information Council found that almost half of Australian home cooks wash whole chickens before cooking. Dutch research has shown that 25% of consumers wash their chicken often or almost always.

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chicken meat and germs

Incorrect cooking temperatures and cross-contamination between different foods are two of the most important factors associated with foodborne illness.

This is especially true for poultry meat. Two major causes of foodborne illness are the bacteria Campylobacter and Salmonella, which are commonly found on raw poultry.

In Australia, reported cases of Campylobacter and Salmonella have almost doubled over the past two decades. Of the estimated 220,000 Campylobacter infections per year, 50,000 can be traced back directly or indirectly to chicken meat.

Busted chicken washing myths

An analysis of consumer reactions to an awareness campaign about the dangers of washing raw poultry reveals why many people still wash raw chicken before cooking.

Some believe that it is necessary to wash feces and other substances from chicken meat. In fact, modern processing techniques mean that chicken carcasses do not require additional cleaning.

Others believe washing with a slightly acidic solution (like vinegar or lemon juice) kills bacteria.

On the contrary, research has shown that washing raw poultry in lemon juice or vinegar does not remove bacteria and may increase the risk of cross-contamination.

Washing chickens spreads bacteria

One of the more compelling arguments as to why washing raw poultry under a running tap is risky comes from recent research on water droplets expelled from the surface of washed chickens.

The study clearly showed that bacteria can be transferred from the surface of the chicken to the surrounding surfaces via water droplets.

Chickens meat is often soft and the water flow can create a divot in the surface. This leads to splashing that would not occur on a curved, hard surface.

The researchers placed large agar plates next to the chickens surfaces to capture any water droplets. This allowed them to grow the bacteria that were transferred with the splashed water.


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