Monday, 16 June 2014

Don't Wash Raw Chicken - 4 Top Food Safety Tips

'Tis the season of BBQs and perhaps the inevitable Monday morning jokes about running to the loo after having some dodgy chicken. But I'm willing to bet you haven't even heard of the media-shy Campylobacter - the biggest known cause of food poisoning in the UK. Forget Salmonella or the Winter Vomiting virus that we regularly see hogging the headlines - 'Campy' can cause nightmarish symptoms that could land you in hospital - and maybe even cause paralysis or kill you.

About one in five cases of Campylobacter poisoning in the UK come from contaminated poultry - which can result in abdominal pain, severe diarrhoea and vomiting. It can also lead to irritable bowel syndrome, reactive arthritis and a serious condition of the nervous system called Guillain-Barré. And under-fives are one of the groups at the highest-risk of these severe symptoms.

Don't spend summer in the loo (image from winnond,
But that's not to say you should be afraid of using raw chicken - just that you need to be careful in the way you store, handle and cook it. Thorough cooking can kill Campylobacter completely - the problems usually arise in the preparation stage. And since this week is Food Safety Week, the Food Standards Agency has released a set of guidelines to help you and your loved ones avoid Campylobacter altogether.

1. Dont Wash Raw Chicken

Ever. Washing meat with water cannot get rid of germs - they are killed off by the high temperatures we cook with. In fact if you do pop your chicken under the tap you are far more likely to be splashing and spraying bugs across your surfaces, yourself, other nearby food (maybe your veg) and any utensils. Since Campylobacter bugs are invisible to us - you'll never know where the germs have landed.

2. Cover and chill raw chicken

When you bring chicken home from the butcher's or the supermarket it should be packaged to avoid any juices spilling out. Do not open this packaging until you need to. Raw chicken should be placed at the very bottom of your fridge - where it is coolest and where any stray juices cannot drip onto other foods. If necessary (your raw chicken is not wrapped, the packaging is inadequate) you should put the chicken on a plate/dish and cover it completely.

3. Wash used utensils

As you prepare raw chicken, bear in mind anything you have used could be contaminated. That includes chopping boards, knives, basting brush, rubber gloves and any surfaces it has come into contact with. This also includes your hands (so don't be wiping them on your apron either!). Wash your hands and everything else with warm, soapy water to avoid what the experts call 'cross contamination'.

4. Cook chicken thoroughly

Chicken must be cooked properly all the way through before it is eaten, this means no pink meat and clear juices only (not pink, i.e. bloody). To check you need to find the thickest part of the meat (often between the drumstick and the thigh on a whole chicken) and either pull apart with a knife or stick a skewer in. You should be able to see cooked meat and see the clear juices coming out. If your chicken is not cooked the utensil you used to check now needs to be washed before it can be used again.

So people, spread the word - not the germs! 

Do you wash chicken - or did you until you read this? How about correct storage and prep? Are you following all the food safety rules? Let me know any other food hygiene tips in the comment box below.

Thanks for reading

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