Food Poisoning Danger Increased by Washing Chicken

Washing whole chickens prior to cooking increases the chance of spreading <"">food poisoning, according to a consumer watchdog group, wrote The Telegraph.

Most people—estimates say three-quarters—who purchase whole chickens wash them, which can increase the spread of dangerous and deadly bacteria on work surfaces up to three feet away, said The Telegraph. Citing data from the Food Standards Agency (FSA), about 65 percent of raw store-bought chicken is contaminated with campylobacter, the most common cause of food poisoning in the United Kingdom.

In the United States, Salmonella and Campylobacter are among the top two culprits identified in reported food poisoning illnesses and deaths. Infection can lead to long-term and serious adverse health effects, such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and a form of reactive arthritis called Reiter’s Syndrome, which typically affects large weight-bearing joints such as the knees and the lower back. Campylobacter infections can also lead to Guillain-Barré Syndrome, a potentially paralyzing illness that can leave victims with mild to severe neurological damage, as well as meningitis. Both infections can be found in raw or undercooked poultry, among other foods.

The Telegraph noted that proper cooking of chicken will kill Campylobacter; however, it does account for over 300,000 cases of food poisoning and some 15,000 hospitalizations in England and Wales annually. A survey by Which? revealed that about 56 percent of people surveyed believed Salmonella to be the main cause of food poisoning with Campylobacter accounting for two percent, wrote The Telegraph.

Salmonella is an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms), endocarditis, and arthritis. Salmonella poisoning can lead to Reiter’s Syndrome, a difficult-to-treat reactive arthritis characterized by severe joint pain, irritation of the eyes, and painful urination. E. coli, another food borne disease can lead to kidney failure and death. Some people require hospitalization, dialysis treatments, or blood transfusions and E. coli may cause fatal blood poisoning, cystitis, deadly septicemia, and death.

The FSA is looking at how to reduce infection throughout the food production chain, including disinfecting chickens with an antimicrobial wash prior to sale, said The Telegraph. The European Union (EU) has not yet approved this option.

According to an FSA spokeswoman, ”Washing raw poultry is a common kitchen mistake, and it simply isn’t necessary. ”Tap water won’t get rid of the germs that cause food poisoning but they will be killed by thorough cooking. By washing your raw bird, you’re actually more likely to spread the germs around the kitchen than get rid of them,” quoted the Telegraph.

Peter Vicary-Smith, chief executive of Which? said, ”It shouldn’t be up to consumers to clean up problems made earlier in the food chain, but if you’re planning on cooking a whole chicken be aware that if it’s infected washing it actually increases the risk of food poisoning. Stay safe by cutting out the cleaning and cooking it through thoroughly,” quoted The Telegraph.

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