WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – Whether it’s prepared in the oven, in a skillet or on the grill, chicken is often what’s served for dinner. But there’s a food preparation mistake many of us make with poultry that could make you sick.
That mistake is the subject of a new study by the United States Department of Agriculture released Tuesday. As Eyewitness News Healthbeat Reporter Mark Hiller explains, it underscores the danger of food-borne illness and how best to avoid it.
It’s the first step many of us take to prepare poultry.
“You know, it doesn’t do anything. It doesn’t add any safety benefits,” said USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service Administrator Carmen Rottenberg.
“It” is rinsing raw poultry; a practice legendary chefs Julia Child and Jacques Pepin couldn’t agree on back in the day. In a segment from a PBS broadcast, Ms. Child said, “I have washed this chicken with hot water.” Mr. Pepin replied, “I don’t wash my chicken.”
Neither should you according to a new study by the USDA. Ms. Rottenberg said, “You put yourself and your family at a greater risk for cross-contamination around the kitchen when you rinse your poultry.”
The study found 60 percent of participants in a test kitchen contaminated the inner sink with tracer bacteria after washing the raw chicken; the same sink where they rinsed off lettuce to make salad.
“In our study, 26 percent of the salad was contaminated likely because of that,” said Ms. Rottenberg.
The raw poultry bacteria doesn’t stop at the sink. From your hands, it can get transferred to cabinet and door handles, salt and pepper shakers and anything else you touch. When asked what makes the bacteria on poultry thrive in a kitchen environment, Ms. Rottenberg replied: “When we think about poultry we worry about pathogens like salmonella and campylobacter.”
Both salmonella and campylobacter are leading causes of food-borne bacterial illnesses which sicken millions of Americans each year resulting in an estimated 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths.
To reduce the risk, the USDA says prepare foods you don’t need to cook like salads first before handling raw meat. And remember during the food prep to keep it clean.
“It’s so important to wash hands properly, thoroughly for 20 seconds with soap and water under running water and then also sanitizing. Cleaning and sanitizing surfaces and the inside of your sink,” said Ms. Rottenberg.
To learn more about food safety practices, visit www.FoodSafety.gov or call the USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854), open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET. Expert advice is also available 24/7 at AskKaren.gov.