Why washing uncooked chicken is a big no-no

Think twice before washing uncooked chicken. Photo: Getty Images.

You may have grown up watching your mum or dad rinse chicken in the sink before cooking it - even celebrity chef Julia Child famously did it!

But as it turns out, giving your poultry a quick wash under the tap is not only unhealthy - in some cases, it can even be potentially fatal.

Why you shouldn’t wash raw chicken

The reason you shouldn’t wash raw chicken comes down to science. The water droplets that come in contact with the raw meat can spread all over the sink, the tap, the towels and nearby work surfaces.

Sure, the thought of raw chicken water touching your kitchen seems gross, but even more terrifying is the fact that you’re probably spreading harmful bacteria that can cause food poisoning.

A new US study from the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and North Carolina State University set out to explore how handling raw meat affects nearby foods.

When tested, bacteria was found up to three feet surrounding the sink for those who washed their chicken. In addition, those who washed their chicken had a contamination rate of 26 per cent in the salads they prepared.

Washing raw chicken spreads harmful germs. Photo: Getty Images.

Uncooked chicken: What could go wrong?

The poultry that we buy can carry two dangerous bacteria in their uncooked state. One is called campylobacter, and the other, which you’ve probably heard about, is salmonella.

Neither hot or cold water will kill these bacteria, so no matter how thoroughly you wash your poultry, all you’re doing is increasing the chance of spreading the germs across your kitchen.

Campylobacter and salmonella infection cause similar symptoms including abdominal pain, severe and even bloody diarrhea, fever and vomiting.

Most people recover without treatment, but it can be fatal in young children, older adults and those who have a weakened immune system.

Even if you buy only organic chicken, the bird still can still contain harmful bacteria like the ones found on those conventionally raised so make sure you take precautions with any kind of poultry you’re handling.

Poultry can carry dangerous bacteria in their uncooked state. Photo: Getty Images.

How to prevent food poisoning from chicken

Scared yet? Don’t be! All foods come with certain risks, and as long as you follow best practices, you’ll have safe and tasty meals.

Always make sure your chicken is cooked all the way through and there’s no pink left when you cut through the thickest part of the meat and the juices run clear. If you have a meat thermometer, 75 degrees Celsius is the recommended safe internal temperature by the FDA. A thorough cooking is the best - and only - way to remove harmful bacteria.

Be careful to wash any utensils or kitchen tools that came in contact with raw turkey to avoid spreading the bacteria.

And, if you feel like you simply must add in an extra cleaning step to remove sliminess, the FDA recommends patting turkey with a paper towel then throwing out immediately.

Tip: Always make sure your chicken is cooked all the way through. Photo: Getty Images.

Additional reporting by Sarah Rohoman.

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