If you wash raw poultry before cooking, USDA says don’t

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WASHINGTON (USDA) Before you cook chicken, don’t wash it despite what you may have heard in the past. That advice comes from the US Department of Agriculture following a study that showed just how easy bacteria can be spread when surfaces are not effectively cleaned and sanitized.

If you wash or rinse raw poultry you’re putting yourself at risk for illness.

The USDA is recommending three easy options to help prevent illness when preparing poultry, or meat, in your home.

  1. 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. 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.
  2. Thoroughly clean and sanitize ANY surface that has potentially touched or been contaminated from raw meat and poultry, or their juices. 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. This high rate of cross-contamination was likely due to a lack of effective handwashing and contamination of the sink and utensils. Clean sinks and countertops with hot soapy water and then apply a sanitizer. Wash hands immediately after handling raw meat and poultry. Wet your hands with water, lather with soap and then scrub your hands for 20 seconds.
  3. Destroy any illness causing bacteria by cooking meat and poultry to a safe internal temperature as measured by a food thermometer. Poultry (whole or ground) are safe to eat at 165°F.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that millions of Americans are sickened with foodborne illnesses each year, resulting in roughly 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths.

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