Wash Your hands, Not Your Chicken by Barb Ingham

This new year, let’s resolve to wash our hands, and not raw poultry! Rinsing chicken or turkey before cooking it is an ingrained step for many home cooks, passed down through generations and reinforced by some older cookbooks. Recipes like the “Perfect Roast Chicken” in “The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook” from 1999 advise cooks to “Rinse the chicken inside and out.” But that doesn’t reflect the science, and it may be increasing the risk of foodborne illness.

To wash or not to wash? While consumers should rinse their fresh fruits and vegetables with clear water prior to eating or preparing, they shouldn’t rinse raw poultry, meat, or eggs. Some consumers think that washing meat and poultry removes bacteria, making the meat safe(r). However, research shows that bacteria can be so tightly attached to muscle tissue that you could not remove pathogens and other germs no matter how many times you washed a given chicken or meat roast. See Wash your Hands ….Not Your Poultry for a fact sheet on why not to wash meat and poultry. The USDA also addresses this question under the topic Washing Food: Does it Promote Food Safety?

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