Food Safety Week 2021
Food Safety Week (13-18 November 2021) is the perfect time to answer the most common question that brings people to the Australian Chicken Meat Federation’s website – ‘Is it safe to re-freeze chicken?’. Dr Vivien Kite, Executive Director of the ACMF, sets the record straight. “Yes, you can re-freeze chicken. Just make sure it was properly defrosted in the fridge in the first place, and it hasn’t been longer than 24 hours since you defrosted it.”
New research conducted by the Food Safety Information Council (FSIC) has revealed that 76% of Australians have got this fact wrong, incorrectly thinking that it’s not safe to refreeze chicken that has been defrosted in the fridge. The myth is more common among older Australians, with 88% of those over 65 thinking the practice is unsafe, compared with 58% of 18 to 24 year-olds.
Dr Kite says, “The myth that it is not safe to re-freeze chicken meat that has been defrosted in the fridge is a mix between two issues – quality and safety. While it is safe to put chicken that has been defrosted below five degrees back into the freezer, the quality of the meat may deteriorate after thawing and refreezing. The reduction in quality can be caused by several things, such as 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, so the good news is that you don’t have to waste it – it’s still fine to cook for dinner.”
When defrosting chicken meat, 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. Dr Kite explains, “If you defrost your chicken meat on the kitchen bench, and then re-freeze it, you’ll be storing any bacteria that may have multiplied during thawing at room temperature, and these 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 your salad ingredients),” said Dr Kite.
Concerningly, 67% of 18 to 24 year-olds think it is fine to refreeze chicken that has been defrosted on the bench.
The good news is that 83% of respondents to the FSIC survey correctly understood that chicken shouldn’t be re-frozen if it’s been defrosted on the benchtop. 93% of those over 65 got this right.