It is often advised to keep raw meat and ready-to-eat food separately in the refrigerator, to decrease the chances of food poisoning.
When it comes to following safe food practices, we are often advised to wash vegetables and raw fruits before eating. This has long been a good hygiene practice recommended by food safety experts. However, is this cleaning technique also applicable to raw poultry? Nope! The US Department of Agriculture has long been warning consumers against washing poultry prior to cooking. This cleaning technique can do more harm than good to our health.
Reasons to Avoid Washing Chicken before Cooking
- If you think that washing chicken will elevate the hygienic quotient of the meat, then you are absolutely wrong. The surface of the chicken is often contaminated with Campylobacter and Salmonella species of bacteria.
- These bacteria are present in large numbers on the outside of the meat. So, when you rinse the meat under the tap, the splash of droplets generated after water hitting the meat surface, are a potent source of infection.
- The act of washing chicken causes the bacteria to get dislodged from the meat surface, which can eventually spread all over the kitchen, including the sink, countertops, and other surfaces.
- These tiny infected droplets can move as far as half a meter and spill all over the place. So if you have kept any ready-to-serve dishes on your kitchen top, they are likely to get contaminated, which if consumed may cause food poisoning.
- In short, rinsing raw meat is an unsafe practice as it can cause cross-contamination. Campylobacter or Salmonella infection (food-borne illness) from cross-contamination can have a wide range of symptoms including fever, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle aches, and headache.
Why People Wash Raw Meat
- Some complain that the weird smell emanating from the chicken compels them to wash it properly. Well, this might never occur if you have purchased it from a trusted source. Also, many argue that it helps to get rid of the sliminess of the store-bought chicken. However, a better option would be to use a paper towel to wipe the meat.
- Also, those saying that washing meat helps to clean the chicken are only partially true. This is because, some of the bacteria remain firmly anchored on the surface, despite rinsing the meat several times.
- Moreover, the meat is heavily contaminated with bacteria regardless of the method of raising chicken. So if your prefer an organically grown chicken (always a better option), it doesn't mean that it carries less bacteria and that there is no harm in washing it.
If you are really serious about food hygiene, make sure that the chicken is cooked properly. Eating undercooked meat is one of the most common causes of food poisoning. Pathogens including bacteria are unable to withstand heat above 70 degrees C (158 degrees F). This is the best way to destroy the bacteria present on raw meat.
Yes, food safety is important but that doesn't mean you start rinsing raw poultry in running water. It is not the proper way to sanitize meat and moreover, carries a lot of health risk.