You have heard about how important it is to wash fruits and vegetables before you eat or cook them. But now, you are learning about warnings to not rinse poultry before you cook. Contrary to what you may have been practicing all these years, washing chicken prior to cooking is NOT safe.
The Campylobacter Bacteria
When you wash chicken and other poultry, you are literally spreading bacteria everywhere – to your hands, clothing, cooking utensils, and your kitchen’s work surfaces. Water droplets can go farther than 50 centimeters in all directions possible. You only need a few campylobacter cells to have food poisoning.
This bacterium, campylobacter is a common cause of food poisoning. In fact, it is the main culprit behind food poisoning in the United Kingdom with over 280,000 victims every year with at least a hundred deaths. Four out of five campylobacter cases come from poultry. When you contract infection caused by this bacteria, you could experience any of the following:
• Severe diarrhea
• Serious abdominal pain
Symptoms in general do not develop immediately, but you could get them after two to five days of consuming contaminated food. The good news about campylobacter infection is that most people can recover without the need for treatment as the symptoms begin to appear. Unfortunately, not everyone is lucky because some people have more grave reactions, which often include:
• Guillain-Barre syndrome
• Reactive arthritis
• Irritable bowel syndrome
Young children, older people, and those who do not have a strong immune system are more likely to suffer more and may even lead to death.
How to Solve the Problem
When you clean raw chicken, you could get rid of the infected droplets from it. However, this does not mean it is more hygienic or that the bacteria have been removed. You need to thoroughly cook the food to really eliminate campylobacter. Additionally, you may want to follow the procedure below to prevent food poisoning due to this bacterium:
• Chill. When storing your chicken in the fridge, make sure it is at the very bottom. This way, the juices will not drip on other foods, which can cause cross-contamination.
• Never wash. There is no need to wash because when you cook the chicken with high heat, you are killing all the bacteria present.
• Wash utensils. While you don’t have to rinse off poultry, you should most definitely keep used utensils clean. These include chopping boards, knife, and even the surfaces where you prepared the meat. Also, don’t ever forget to wash your hands with soap and warm water to stop spreading campylobacter.
• Cook chicken. When serving chicken, make sure it is steaming hot. You will know if you have completely cooked the meat by cutting into the thickest part and you see there is no pink meat there and the juices are clear.
If you get food poisoned, you should contact your GP, especially if you are pregnant or your symptoms don’t go away after two days.