That's right -- you're not supposed to wash your chicken. According to USDA, rinsing raw poultry doesn't kill off any bacteria but instead spreads it all over your sink, hands, and kitchen.
Now, a new anti-chicken-washing crusade is sweeping the Internet, thanks in part to Jennifer Quinlan, PhD, a food safety researcher and associate professor at Drexel University. Her new video campaign called "Don't Wash Your Chicken!" shattered everything we thought we knew about poultry prep.
Prevention's Mandy Oaklander: When I saw your "don't wash your chicken" message, I have to say I was delighted. It cuts out a step, and you almost don't have to touch it now.
Dr. Jennifer Quinlan: I know! One of my vegetarian colleagues was joking that she's going to start eating chicken again just so she can not wash it.
(To avoid the most pesitcide-ridden produce items, check out these 5 Foods You Should Always Buy Organic.)
MO: So when did it come to your attention that people were bathing their birds?
JQ: The USDA recommendation is not to wash raw chicken, but in our focus groups, we were hearing over and over again that people wash their chicken. In fact, 80-90% of all consumers, minority or not, were telling us they washed their chicken.
MO: Do people think it's gross that you're saying not to wash chicken?
JQ: It's really mixed, I won't kid you. Some people are happy not to do it, since it lets them skip a step. Others say, "I always did it, I'm always going to do it." If you feel strongly that you're getting rid of something that you're going to taste, you might not be as likely to follow the "don't wash" advice.
(Pink slime isn't the only gross thing in your food. Discover the 7 nastiest food additives to avoid.)
MO: Are people getting sick from chicken-washing?
JQ: Unfortunately, we rarely know a direct cause and effect with foodborne illness. What we do know is that raw poultry is pretty commonly contaminated with both salmonella and campylobacter, and these two pathogens are the leading causes for foodborne illness. It's thought that cross-contamination probably plays a role in illness from these bacteria.
MO: I assume you should still wash your cutting board -- how should you clean it?
JQ: Try to designate a cutting board that you always use for raw meat and poultry. The best thing to do is to put that cutting board into the dishwasher and run a hot cycle. Alternatively, hot water and soap work as well. Sponges carry a lot of bacteria, so we tell people that they should microwave it or throw it in the dishwasher regularly.
(Think public toilets are gross? Check out the 10 Worst Germ Hot Spots that you never would have guessed.)
MO: I don't have a dishwasher or a microwave. How screwed am I?
JQ: Wow. Wow. That's interesting. We actually see that with low-income populations a lot. You want to be using paper towels, things that are disposable, with hot soapy water instead of sponges.
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