Step away from the sink with that raw chicken.
While many consumers say they believe giving poultry a quick rinse under the faucet is a precautionary measure that wards off illness, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it can do more harm.
“Don’t wash your raw chicken!,” the CDC tweeted April 26. “Washing can spread germs from the chicken to other food or utensils in the kitchen.”
With the tweet, the government agency included a link to its tips on preventing food poisoning with chicken and estimated that every year about a million people get sick from eating poultry that’s contaminated with harmful germs.
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The reason not to wash, the CDC says, is that during washing the “chicken juices can spread in the kitchen and contaminate other foods, utensils, and countertops.”
Responses to the social media post got a little heated, with many saying they didn’t plan to change their ways.
“Sorry, I follow the rules of my 92-year old mother’s kitchen,” wrote Twitter user @myrnamanners. “They haven’t failed me yet.”
“Many Americans wash their protein and know how to clean their kitchen afterwards to kill germs if any have spread,” Twitter user @maracharese wrote. “Also, in my family, we don’t cook unless the kitchen is clean so there would be no utensils in the sink to speak of.”
But how should someone clean the chicken?
By cooking it to an internal temperature of 165˚F, the CDC tweeted, which will kill harmful germs and help prevent food poisoning.
Although the CDC didn’t respond to a question about what to do if you drop the chicken and if the five-second rule would apply, it noted raw chicken often is contaminated with campylobacter bacteria and sometimes with salmonella and clostridium perfringens bacteria.
“This is a salmonella outbreak waiting to happen.” Twitter user @kentbheekoo wrote. “Worst advice I’ve ever heard.”
The CDC said consumers shouldn’t “wing food safety.”
“We didn’t mean to get you all hot about not washing your chicken! But it’s true: kill germs by cooking chicken thoroughly, not washing it,” the CDC tweeted in a follow-up Monday. “You shouldn’t wash any poultry, meat, or eggs before cooking. They can all spread germs around your kitchen.”
Preventing food poisoning
Here are the steps the CDC advises when shopping, cooking, and eating out to help prevent food poisoning:
- Place chicken in a disposable bag before putting it in your shopping cart or refrigerator to prevent raw juices from getting onto other foods.
- Wash hands with warm soapy water for 20 seconds before and after handling chicken.
- Do not wash raw chicken. During washing, chicken juices can spread in the kitchen and contaminate other foods, utensils, and countertops.
- Use a separate cutting board for raw chicken.
- Never place cooked food or fresh produce on a plate, cutting board, or other surface that previously held raw chicken.
- Wash cutting boards, utensils, dishes, and countertops with hot soapy water after preparing chicken and before you prepare the next item.
- Use a food thermometer to make sure chicken is cooked to a safe internal temperature of 165°F.
- If cooking frozen raw chicken in a microwavable meal, handle it as you would fresh raw chicken. Follow cooking directions carefully to prevent food poisoning.
- If you think the chicken you are served at a restaurant or anywhere else is not fully cooked, send it back for more cooking.
- Refrigerate or freeze leftover chicken within two hours (or within one hour if the temperature outside is higher than 90°F).
Follow Kelly Tyko on Twitter: @KellyTyko
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