Many people seek to prevent foodborne illnesses; thus, they mistakenly believe that washing raw poultry is a helpful step. But experts are warning –it’s probably not such a good idea. Per Food Safety News, a new study looks at the dangers of washing poultry and found that it can lead to unsafe cross contamination.
A study on the impact of poultry washing, performed at North Carolina State University, demonstrated that 25 percent of participants who washed raw poultry contaminated their salad. High levels of bacteria were detected in the sink and on the salad lettuce. Per the author of the study, Ellen Shumaker, an extension associate at the University, “We think the salad contamination stems from people doing a poor job of washing their hands after handling the raw chicken, and/or doing a poor job of sanitizing the sink and surrounding surfaces before rinsing or handling the salad.”
This study not only demonstrates that washing poultry is risky but it sheds new light on how contamination occurs. Previously, it was thought that washing chicken caused splattering and that those droplets resulted in contamination of nearby surfaces. While contamination that way may still be possible, the highest level of E.coli DH5a among chicken washers in the study was detected in the sink and on the salad lettuce. Thus, it was likely transferred from the chicken, packaging, or contaminated hands after washing the poultry.