Category Archives: Food Safety

The Dos and Don’ts of Chicken Food Safety!

Chicken tartare, carpaccio or sashimi, anyone? No! I think pretty much everyone understands that you shouldn’t eat raw chicken and why (read more here about why… http://www.chicken.org.au/chookchat/remember-chicken-food-safety/) but given recent servings of chicken sashimi overseas we thought it a timely reminder to look at the dos and don’ts that relate to raw chicken meat and food safety.

Food Safety

Food Safety

1. DON’T wash raw chicken before cooking it

Raw chicken meat doesn’t need to be washed before cooking but, more importantly, it shouldn’t be washed! Washing raw chicken risks splashing chicken juices and any accompanying bacteria around the kitchen onto benches, prepared foods and utensils etc. Modern chicken processing conditions and practices ensure that raw chicken meat reaches your home with as little bacteria on it as possible, but there can still be some bacteria present. Washing chicken creates an opportunity for cross-contamination within in the kitchen and cross-contamination is a big contributor to foodborne illness. The things that it is important to ensure get washed in a kitchen are items that come into contact with raw foods…especially hands.

2. DO cook chicken thoroughly

Always! Cooking chicken thoroughly easily kills the bacteria of concern in a food safety context that can potentially be associated with chicken. To check, if you have a food thermometer, it should reach at least 75°C when inserted to the deepest (thickest) part of the meat; if you don’t have a food thermometer, the juices should run clear (not pink) when you pierce the meat with a fork or skewer to the thickest part of the meat and the colour of the meat should be consistently white when cut in half at the thickest point.

3. DON’T defrost frozen chicken on the bench

Never! Raw chicken meat should always be thawed below 5°C, which usually means in the fridge, or by using a microwave. The microwave is fastest but can damage the quality of the chicken if you’re not careful so often the easiest way is to defrost gradually overnight in the fridge because this maintains the safety and quality of the meat. To prevent cross-contamination with other foods in the fridge, put the meat in a container which prevents juices dripping on other food items and/or put it on the bottom shelf.

4. DO wash your hands…boards, hands, knives, containers…

While the risk from chicken meat itself is gone after cooking (assuming it’s thoroughly cooked and consumed or refrigerated within 2 hours), cross-contamination from whatever came in contact with the raw meat before it was cooked still exists. So things like knives, chopping boards and particularly hands and anything they’ve touched such as towels, can still have bacteria from the raw meat present on them. It’s easy to see how the bacteria can be transferred from these things to foods that are consumed raw (like salads) or food that’s already been cooked, and because there is no additional cooking step to kill the bacteria the food gets eaten along with any cross-contaminating bacteria! So either have utensils and boards specifically for raw meat or clean them immediately after use for raw meat and before use on anything else. But always wash your hands!

5. DON’T let raw chicken meat come in contact with other foods in the fridge

Cross-contamination is possible not just during preparation in the kitchen, it can occur during food storage too. Always separate raw chicken and other foods in the fridge so raw chicken juices can not drip or spill onto or in any other way come in contact with other foods.

6. It’s OK to refreeze defrosted chicken

YES it is! This was covered in a recent Chook Chat blog (http://www.chicken.org.au/chookchat/is-it-safe-to-refreeze-chicken/). It is safe to put defrosted chicken back into the freezer, but, only if the chicken was defrosted as described in 3 above and wasn’t ‘defrosting’ for longer than 24 hours at this temperature. The myth that it is not safe to re-freeze chicken meat that has been defrosted arises from confusing two issues: quality and safety. While it is safe to put chicken that has been defrosted below 5°C back into the freezer, freezing and re-freezing chicken may result in a deterioration in the quality (taste and texture) of the meat.

The ACMF website provides lots of hints and recommendations for safe handling and cooking of chicken; go to http://www.chicken.org.au/foodsafety/

Food Safety Myths Busted!

by Guest Blogger, Kylie Hewson

Food Safety

Food Safety

There are many myths surrounding chicken meat, and keeping with the theme “Raw is Risky” for Australian Food Safety Week (6 – 12th November), which is coordinated by the Australian Food Safety Information Council (AFSIC Food Safety Week), we’ve decided to focus this month’s Chook Chat blog on those myths that relate to raw chicken meat and food safety.

1. Raw chicken should be washed before it’s cooked

NO it shouldn’t! Raw chicken meat doesn’t need to be washed before cooking but more importantly it shouldn’t be washed! Modern processing conditions ensure the chicken meat reaches your table with as little bacteria on it as possible (but there may still be bacteria present). Rinsing in water doesn’t remove bacteria anyway and actually increases the risk because this splashes chicken juices and any accompanying bacteria, around the kitchen onto benches, prepared foods and utensils etc. This is an easy way to get cross-contamination in the kitchen and cross-contamination is a big contributor to foodborne illness. The only things that should get washed in a kitchen is anything that comes into contact with raw foods, and especially hands.

2. Once the chicken is cooked the risk of food poisoning is gone

YES for the chicken itself, but NO it’s not, potentially, for other raw foods! While the risk from chicken meat itself is gone after cooking (assuming it’s thoroughly cooked and consumed or refrigerated within 2 hours), cross contamination from whatever came in contact with the raw meat before it was cooked still exists. So things like knives, chopping boards and particularly hands and anything they’ve touched such as towels, can still have bacteria from the raw meat present. It’s easy to see how the bacteria can be transferred from these things to foods that are consumed raw (like salads) or food that’s already been cooked and because there is no additional cooking step to kill the bacteria the food gets eaten along with any cross-contaminating bacteria! So either have utensils and boards specifically for raw meat or clean them immediately after use for raw meat and before use on anything else. But always wash your hands!

3. It’s OK to defrost frozen chicken on the bench

NO it’s not! Raw chicken meat should always be thawed below 5 degrees Celsius, which usually means the fridge, or by using a microwave. The microwave is fastest but can damage the quality of the chicken if you’re not careful so often the easiest way is to defrost gradually overnight in the fridge because this maintains the safety and quality of the meat. To prevent cross-contamination with foods in the fridge put the meat in a container which prevents juices dripping on other food and even better, put it on the bottom shelf.

4. It’s not safe to refreeze chicken

YES it is! This was covered in a recent Chook Chat blog (http://www.chicken.org.au/chookchat/is-it-safe-to-refreeze-chicken/). It is safe to put defrosted chicken back into the freezer, but, only if the chicken was defrosted as described in 3 above and wasn’t ‘defrosting’ for longer than 24 hours at this temperature. The myth that it is not safe to re-freeze chicken meat that has been defrosted is a mix between two issues: quality and safety. While it is safe to put chicken that has been defrosted below 5 degrees, back into the freezer, freezing and re-freezing chicken may deteriorate the quality of the meat.

Test your food safety knowledge with the Food Safety Information Council’s “Raw and Risky” quiz.

I hope you enjoy a foodborne illness free Food Safety Week!

Myth Busting #1: Is it safe to refreeze chicken?

Do you ever take some chicken out of the freezer to defrost before leaving for work in the morning, only to get home and not feel like cooking? I know I do!

A question we get asked often is whether it is safe to put the defrosted chicken back into the freezer, and the answer is YES! But, only if the chicken was defrosted below 5 degrees Celsius (usually means in the fridge), and wasn’t ‘defrosting’ for longer than 24 hours at this temperature.

The myth that it is not safe to re-freeze chicken meat that has been defrosted is a mix between two issues: quality and safety. While it is safe to put chicken that has been defrosted below 5 degrees, back into the freezer, freezing and re-freezing chicken may deteriorate the quality of the meat. The reduction in quality can be caused by a number of things, but it includes the formation of ice crystals in the cells of the meat that can ‘break down’ the meat so that it no longer looks as good as it did when it was bought. This affects the look of the chicken meat much more than the taste, and definitely does not affect the safety of the chicken – it is still fine to cook for dinner!

Any time chicken meat is defrosted, it is very important that it is defrosted in the fridge, below 5 degrees, and it is best to store defrosting meat on the lowest shelf in the fridge.

Why defrost in the fridge? If you defrost on the kitchen bench then re-freeze it, you’ll be storing any bacteria that have multiplied during thawing at room temperature, which can start growing again next time you defrost it! And the more bacteria that are present, the greater the risk that someone might get sick. Thorough cooking will destroy the bacteria though, so it is important to always ensure that chicken meat is cooked through, and that raw meat doesn’t come into contact with anything already cooked or that will be eaten raw (like some veggies).

Why the lowest shelf of the fridge? Well there are two reasons for this: 1. It is coldest at the bottom of the fridge and 2. It avoids any water or ‘meat juice’ from the defrosting chicken from dripping onto foods lower in the fridge. These reasons are really important for food safety, because any bacteria that might be present on the chicken meat (and therefore also in the juices) can grow at temperatures outside the fridge and this is when it can go ‘off’ and potentially make people sick if it isn’t handled correctly and cooked thoroughly.

So remember it is safe to re-freeze chicken meat that has been defrosted but always remember in the fridge and not for longer than a day.

Busted!

For more information on busting this myth and food safety advice visit http://www.chicken.org.au/foodsafety/ and http://www.foodsafety.asn.au

Food Safety

Food Safety at Christmas

By Guest Blogger, Dr Kylie Hewson

Don’t forget the roast chicken for Christmas lunch – but also don’t forget food safety!

But what does ‘food safety’ actually mean? And how can we talk about it without getting bored and losing interest? It can be difficult to find a food safety message that will be effective and understood by everyone. Variables such as a person’s profession (do they work with food or not?), background (what sort of foods they like to prepare and eat?), understanding of foodborne illness (are they a doctor, or someone who has experienced foodborne illness previously?) and their understanding of bacteria (e.g. do they have a background in science or food technology?), will significantly impact on which food safety message will be most effective. But importantly, everyone is susceptible to foodborne illness!

Food safety is particularly important over the holiday season as people are much more likely to be catering for more people than usual in a single sitting and this is when things are more likely to go wrong.

A good place to start is with the Australian Food Safety Information Council’s (FSIC) ‘food safety at home’ quiz (http://www.foodsafety.asn.au/resources/shopping-quiz/do-you-pass-the-food-safety-at-home-test/), which will provide you with a starting point for how good (or not) your current food safety practices are at home. I scored 22.

There’s a lot of extra information in the answers to this quiz, which can be overwhelming and definitely hard to remember and put into practice when you are trying to follow a new recipe for a Christmas meal and pressed for time. Perhaps the best way to think about food safety is that it is a combination of a lot of small things that will prevent yourself (or anyone you’ve cooked for) from spending the holidays curled up on the bathroom floor (or worse)! That does not make for good memories of your carefully prepared Christmas meal.

So the simple, general, food safety theme I use when preparing a meal is CLEAN, COOK, TIME. Are the ingredients and utensils clean? Have I cooked it enough? How long has it been since it was cooked? Three little words are easier to remember than a whole page of information, which is important when we all have so many other things to remember at Christmas.

So, to chicken meat. When talking about any raw animal product it’s important to remember that it will not be sterile, even if it looks clean. Bacteria (most of which are harmless) will still be present on clean, raw chicken meat and the application of heat is really the only sure way to destroy bacteria. A previous Chook Chat blog (http://www.chicken.org.au/chookchat/remember-chicken-food-safety/) extends the general food safety message above to include ‘CHILL’ (instead of TIME) and ‘SEPARATE’. It’s a good idea to take extra precautions when handling raw animal products, and especially when cooking for a crowd. Chicken meat should always be kept ‘CHILLed’ in the fridge or freezer as bacteria don’t like the cold and won’t grow below 4°C – the best way to defrost chicken meat is in the fridge, or better yet, use a microwave. ‘SEPARATE’ relates to ensuring the juices that are on and in raw chicken meat don’t splash or drip on to any foods or utensils as bacteria are plentiful in these types of juices (as well as separating utensils or equipment used on raw chicken from those used for preparing other foods – particularly foods eaten raw – unless of course the equipment can be thoroughly cleaned in hot water in between uses).

Remember that bacteria are present everywhere – on your hands, clothes, kitchen utensils, other ingredients on the bench and even in the air. Chicken meat that has been left out for more than 4 hours after cooking should be thrown out, in case any bacteria have ended up on the food after cooking, some of which could have been happily growing at room temperature since. If in doubt – throw it out!

Which brings me to leftovers – there are usually plenty this time of year. Leftover chicken should definitely be reheated to steaming before it is consumed. Or better yet, cook a whole other meal using the leftover chicken meat in a pie, a casserole or on a pizza! But whichever way you use your chicken leftovers, make sure they are prepared with clean utensils, are reheated thoroughly and haven’t been in the fridge too long (no more than 2 days).

Our regular blogger, Dr Vivien Kite, will be back with another blog in February.

In the meantime, when it comes to the roast chook remember ‘Clean, Chill, Cook Separate’ and enjoy a safe, healthy, foodborne illness free Christmas!

Food Safety

Food Safety

How safe is your chicken?

Origin of Chicken Meat Available in Australia and Measures to Ensure its Quality

In the wake of a recent major food safety incident attributed to imported frozen berries, the ACMF has been receiving an increased number of calls from concerned consumers asking where their chicken has come from, and what the Australian industry does about ensuring the safety and quality of the chicken it produces and sells to the consumer.

So let me first allay any fears about the origin of Australian chicken meat – all fresh and frozen raw chicken meat and virtually all further processed and cooked chicken products that are offered for sale in Australia have been produced in Australia (and I mean the chickens have been grown on Australian farms, and processed in Australian processing plants, to Australian standards).

Chook Chat Blog Continue reading

Remember chicken food safety

OK – lets get this one out of the way up front….hormones are not added to chicken feed or in any other way administered to chickens, so there is no food safety issue related to hormones and chicken meat; nor is there any issue with unsafe levels of antibiotic residues in chicken meat…decades of testing conducted by the National Residue Survey shows that.

So, what is the issue?

Chook Chat Food Safety

Chicken tartare, cappacio or sashimi, anyone? No? I think pretty much everyone understands that you don’t eat raw chicken…that you need to cook it thoroughly. That’s because raw chicken meat can potentially carry certain species of bacteria which, if consumed, can cause illness. While bacteria (only some of which can potentially cause illness) can be found on any perishable food, particularly meat, the reason you need to be particularly careful with poultry is that, chicken and other poultry is processed (and often packed) with its skin on, and just like most people like the skin, so do bacteria!  Fortunately, the bacteria of most concern in this respect in the case of poultry meat, Salmonella and Campylobacter, are easily killed by normal cooking temperatures. However, while cooking will make the chicken itself safe, its important to understand that raw poultry must also be handled carefully to prevent contamination of other cooked foods or foods that will be eaten raw; for example salads. Continue reading