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Don’t wash raw chicken – Food Safety Week

The most common cause of food poisoning is caused by the Campylobacter bug.  You can’t see, it taste it or smell it, if you’ve ever had campylobacter food poisoning you’ll never forget it.  The groups at the highest risk are children under 5 years old and people over 60 years.

Onset is 2-5 days, making it very difficult to know where you picked it up from and it can lead to abdominal cramps, diarrhoea and vomiting, in the very worst cases it can lead to reactive arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, diseases of the nervous system and it can KILL.

80% of cases of campylobacter in the UK originate from contaminated poultry but cooking the poultry thoroughly will kill it.  However, the most common way of picking up the bug is by cross contamination.  This means that utensils, your hands, work surfaces and taps (when you’re washing your hands) have raw poultry juice transferred to them and from there transfer to cooked food.  The chicken that was contaminated has been cooked so it’s safe to eat but the other things that have come into contact with the raw poultry aren’t, that’s what gives you food poisoning.

What can you do?

  1. Handle raw poultry carefully, DON’T WASH IT, this won’t wash off the bacteria, in fact the water that you use will splash off the poultry taking the bacteria with it and where it lands will be breeding ground for the bacteria.  All someone has to do is touch that droplet and eat an apple and the bacteria is transferred onto the apple and they contract campylobacter food poisoning.  If you wash poultry in the sink you risk splashing the bacteria around the draining board, taps, back splash, sink, everywhere in the vicinity and it doesn’t kill the bacteria either, just don’t do it.
  2. Have dedicated chopping boards purely for raw meat.  Ensure that these and any utensils that come into contact with the raw meat are washed thoroughly at a high temperature, dishwashers are brilliant.
  3. When handling raw poultry don’t touch anything else until you have washed your hands, yes, it may be a pain washing your hands a few times when prepping up poultry but it’s better than risking campylobacter food poisoning.
  4. Turn the taps on with your elbow if you have raw meat or poultry on them, ask someone else to turn them on and use liquid soup so you don’t transfer any raw meat juices onto the soap.  If you have to touch the taps wash them down afterwards with hit soapy water and remember when you go to turn them off they will have raw meat juice on so you’ll have to wash your hands again.
  5. Make sure that your poultry is thoroughly cooked, never eat undercooked poultry, if in doubt cook it for longer.

Check out the Food Standard Agency’s guildelines for further tips and more information

Just because celebrity chefs do things on the TV doesn’t mean it’s right or safe to eat.