Raw Chicken

(Meredith) - A new study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture revealed washing or rinsing raw poultry could make you sick and splatter harmful bacteria around your kitchen. 

"Even when consumers think they are effectively cleaning after washing poultry, this study shows that bacteria can easily spread to other surfaces and foods. The best practice is not to wash poultry," said Dr. Mindy Brashears, the USDA’s Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety. 

As part of the observational study, the USDA teamed up with North Carolina State University to evaluate how home cooks handle raw meat.

Researchers recruited a total of 300 people to prepare chicken and salad in a test kitchen. Some participants received food safety messages that discouraged rinsing raw chicken, and 93 percent of those participants followed the advise. 

Among the participants who did not see the safety messages, 61 percent washed the raw chicken. Some of those participants soaked the chicken in a sink with water and added either lemon juice, soap or vinegar. 

The study results

Contaminated water often splashed onto the counter. However, high levels of E. coli bacteria were also detected in the sink, where fruits and vegetables are often washed, which proved to be a larger cause of concern. 

"Of the participants who washed their raw poultry, 60 percent had bacteria in their sink after washing or rinsing the poultry," the USDA said in a statement. "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 who washed raw poultry transferred bacteria to their ready-to-eat salad lettuce.

About 31 percent of participants who did not wash their raw poultry still managed to get bacteria onto their salad. The cross-contamination was likely due to a lack of effective hand-washing and contamination of the sink and utensils, according to the USDA.

"Washing or rinsing raw meat and poultry can increase your risk as bacteria spreads around your kitchen, but not washing your hands for 20 seconds immediately after handling those raw foods is just as dangerous," said Carmen Rottenberg of USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). 

How to destroy bacteria on raw meat

Cooking meat and poultry to safe internal temperatures, as measured by a food thermometer, can destroy any illness-causing bacteria. The USDA provided the following guidelines: 

Poultry (whole or ground) are safe to eat at 165°F.

Ground meats (burgers) are safe to eat at 160°F.

Beef, pork, lamb and veal (steaks, roasts and chops) are safe to eat at 145°F.

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