BREAKING NEWS: USDA Reveals You Could Be Sick Washing or Rinsing Raw Poultry Recommendations to help prevent foodborne illnesses

There is a horror food safety discovery recently published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). According to the research published on August 20, 2019, it was revealed that individuals are putting themselves at risk of illness when they wash or rinse raw poultry.

When you rinse raw chicken, you think you are cleaning it but unintentionally you are splattering harmful bacteria all over kitchen counters and even on other food that’s already been properly washed and ready to eat, so it’s cross-contaminated.

As stated by Dr. Mindy Brashears, the USDA’s Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety, “the public health implications of these findings should be of concern to everyone. 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 research was done with the USDA partnering with North Carolina State University to investigate the public health implications of washing raw poultry in the kitchen and how easy bacteria can be spread when surfaces are not effectively cleaned and sanitized.   

300 people were recruited for the research and were asked to watch a food safety video on social media before preparing chicken and salad at an N.C. State test kitchen. Findings from the observational study showed that:

  • Of the participants who washed their raw poultry, 60 percent had bacteria in their sink after washing or rinsing the poultry. Even more concerning is that 14 percent still had bacteria in their sinks after they attempted to clean the sink.
  • 26 percent of participants that washed raw poultry transferred bacteria from that raw poultry to their ready to eat salad lettuce.
  • Of the participants that did not wash their raw poultry, 31 percent still managed to get bacteria from the raw poultry onto their salad lettuce

From a microbiological standpoint, washing your chicken by soaking it in the sink, either with water only or adding soap, vinegar or lemon juice does not kill bacteria. Following recommendations by USDA, there are three easy options to help prevent illness when preparing poultry, or meat, in your home.

  • Significantly decrease your risk by preparing foods that will not be cooked, such as vegetables and salads, BEFORE handling and preparing raw meat and poultry.
  • Thoroughly clean and sanitize ANY surface that has potentially touched or been contaminated from raw meat and poultry, or their juices. This includes washing hands thoroughly for 20 seconds with soap and water, damp with a paper towel and throwing away.
  • Destroy any illness-causing bacteria by cooking meat and poultry to a safe internal temperature as measured by a food thermometer. Beef, pork, lamb and veal (steaks, roasts, and chops) are safe to eat at 145°F, Ground meats (burgers) are safe to eat at 160°F and Poultry (whole or ground) are safe to eat at 165°F.

A World Bank report in 2018 disclosed that Nigeria and other low-income and middle-income countries across the world, especially in Africa and Asia, spend $110bn in lost productivity and medical expenses in treating illnesses arising from foodborne diseases

Everyone has a role to play in preventing illness from food and it’s important we apply these recommendations when cooking meals for our families. Administrator Carmen Rottenberg of USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) advises we keep in mind that children, older adults, and those with compromised immune systems are especially at risk