One of the most hotly debated questions in the culinary world is whether or not you should wash raw chicken before cooking it. Although some chefs have differing opinions, most Australian food and nutrition experts and public health officials agree that you shouldn’t wash raw chicken. In fact, doing so can cause more harm than good.
It is not recommended to wash chicken meat before cooking. This recommendation has the endorsement of the Food Safety Information Council (FSIC)
Washing is likely to splash raw meat juices and any bacteria in to the kitchen sink, bench top and utensils and washing will not remove all bacteria.
Modern chicken meat processing means that raw chicken meat is much safer now than it used to be when washing may have been recommended.
Make sure you wash hands thoroughly and immediately after handling raw chicken meat. Only cooking will destroy all bacteria effectively.
All foods (with the exception of sterilised foods such as canned produce) contain bacteria. Most of these bacteria are harmless or even an essential part of the production process such as in cheese. However, some bacteria can cause illness in humans if food is not handled correctly.
Both Salmonella and Campylobacter are bacteria that occur naturally on a range of foods, including meat, eggs and all other fresh food including salads, vegetables, fruit and nuts. They are also considered to be ‘commensals’ of chickens, which means that they are part of the normal microflora of the chicken gut, where they can live without affecting the chicken. However, some strains of Salmonella and Campylobacter can cause illness in humans.
Delivering safe chicken meat products to Australian consumers is an imperative for the chicken industry and significant effort is put into minimising contamination of chicken meat with these bacteria.