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!

2 thoughts on “Food Safety Myths Busted!

  1. Susana

    The idea that raw chicken causes illness is the real myth. I have eaten raw chicken many times just to prove the theory wrong. I have never become ill. Chicken eaten raw just isn’t appetizing compared to beef or fish eaten raw. that’s all. It’s all related to that bird flew nonsense

    Reply
    1. Vivien Kite Post author

      There are many documented cases, in Australia and internationally, of bacteria associated with raw/undercooked chicken causing people to fall ill. Testing often finds human foodborne pathogens such as Salmonella and Campylobacter on raw chicken meat because these bacteria are normal gut bacteria in chickens which can end up on the meat during processing. Some infections with these bacteria can cause serious disease in humans (indeed, globally, consumption of undercooked poultry is regarded as one of the major risk factors for gastro caused by Campylobacter). However, whether a person falls ill from these bacteria, and how ill they become, is due to numerous variables including age, immune status (whether or not you’re already sick) and how much bacteria was present on the amount of food consumed, which are all situation specific. Importantly, whether there is food already in their stomach can be key to whether someone falls ill because food increases the pH in the stomach, and it is the low (acidic) pH that kills bacteria. Raw chicken is a delicacy in some countries, but isn’t appetising to most Australians. Furthermore, Australian food preparers – both in the home and food service – have generally heard and heeded the messages from food safety regulators that chicken is a product that should only be eaten well-cooked to ensure any bacteria present are destroyed. The high standards of food safety in Australian chicken meat processing plants reduces the risk of illness significantly for Australians, but it doesn’t remove the risk, which is why the industry would never recommend the consumption of raw chicken meat.

      Reply

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