It seems to make sense to wash foods before we cook or eat them. It’s important to get rid of any pesticides or germs lurking on the surfaces.
And this seems like it would especially apply to chicken, a notorious source of food poisoning.1
No less an authority than Julia Child said you should always wash chicken before cooking it.
But what does the science say?
One study found that 97% of chicken sold contains multiple harmful bacteria. And half of the samples had at least one antibiotic-resistant strain. No other meat comes close to these levels.2
The bacteria found included E. coli, salmonella, staphylococcus aureus, and klebsiella pneumonia. These can cause classic food poisoning symptoms. But in some people they can lead to serious, even deadly infections.
Klebsiella pneumonia was found in 13% of chicken. It is particularly dangerous because it can be antibiotic resistant.
It’s Like Setting Off a Germ Bomb in Your Kitchen
With chickens harboring so many bacteria, you’d think that rinsing off the meat before cooking would be a sensible practice.
But researchers say you should absolutely not do this.
Some bacteria might get washed away. But there’s a big risk that you’ll be spreading germs to your sink, hands, and surfaces throughout your kitchen.3
Scientists have found that while rinsing chicken in a sink, tiny droplets of contaminated water can travel two feet in any direction. You’ve now dramatically increased the risk of food poisoning for anyone who sets foot in your kitchen.
3 Steps to Protect Yourself from Chicken Bacteria
Take these three steps to minimize your exposure to the germs in chicken:
- When you buy chicken, put the sealed package in a container in the very bottom of your refrigerator. That way juices can’t drip onto other foods.
- When you are ready to cook the chicken, remove it from the packaging and place it directly into the cooking dish. Throw the packaging directly in the trash. Wash your hands immediately, before touching any surfaces.
- Cook chicken to an internal temperature of 165℉. That ensures all germs are killed. If you don’t have a food thermometer, cut the thickest section of the meat. Make sure the meat is steaming hot inside with no pink meat and clear juices.
Also, you should know that marinating chicken in lime, lemon, or vinegar will not kill bacteria. When you take the chicken out of the marinade, carefully discard the liquid with the understanding that it contains bacteria from the chicken.
One more thing…
We’ve always recommended buying organic pasture-raised, free-range chickens. They are free of harmful pesticides and chemicals.
There’s another good reason to buy organic… The chickens are raised without antibiotics. So they are less likely to harbor dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria.4