Sometimes when you take raw chicken out of its packaging it can have developed a particularly funky odor. As a result a lot of people think it is a good idea to wash the chicken to get rid of any juices or liquids that are holding onto this smell, but this can in fact be very dangerous! Washing raw chicken can actually lead to a potentially dangerous form of food poisoning caused by Campylobacter bacteria and it can spread onto hands, cooking utensils, works surfaces and clothing as the water that comes into contact with the chicken splashes off it.
Campylobacter is an infectious disease that leads to the likes of diarrhea, occasional vomiting, abdominal pain, fever and cramping. This usually occurs within 2-5 days of exposure and is a definitely a disease you would rather not have. The disease is all the worse for those with weak immune systems, as they allow the bacteria to spread to the bloodstream and can cause a serious life-threatening infection.
The risk of getting this disease shouldn’t be underestimated and it is a relatively easy one to avoid! But being aware of some of the potential risks involved if you do wash your chicken should quite quickly help you reconsider your stance on it. The infection can lead to all sorts from irritable bowel syndrome to Guillan-Barré syndrome, a condition that has serious effects on the nervous system and can even see you become paralyzed.
To counteract the fact that an estimated 280,000 people a year become ill from this, the UK’s Food Standards Agency is urging people to stop washing raw chicken. The FDA used Food Safety Week as their platform to inform people about washing their chicken as it is estimated that 44% of people in the UK wash chicken before cooking it. It doesn’t just stop at Food Safety Week though, the FSA are urging producers of TV cooking shows to not show people washing chicken in case this may lead to more people taking up the bad habit.
Instead it is important for us to remember the basics of food and kitchen hygiene. If we are coming into contact with raw foods then washing our hands thoroughly is one of the most important things to do, as well as making sure the food is thoroughly cooked too.
The FDA have in fact not only worked with media and the public to raise awareness about the dangers of washing chicken but they have also worked with farmers and producers to reduce the number of infections in broiler chickens and contamination in slaughtered birds.
In the UK this is the most common cause of food poisoning and 80% of it is due to contaminated poultry. So if you don’t like the idea of getting some pretty nasty food poisoning then you should stay well clear from washing your raw meat. It is even estimated that the consequences of this illness are that the economy loses hundreds of millions of pounds from sickness absence and added burden to the NHS.