The UK Food Standards Agency has issued advice to consumers to stop washing raw chicken before cooking it, because of the risk of water droplets containing the foodborne pathogen Campylobacter cross-contaminating hands, work surfaces, cooking equipment and other foods.
The advice, issued at the start of the annual UK Food Safety Week, comes in response to new survey results showing that 44% of those asked always wash raw chicken prior to cooking it, either to remove dirt and germs or through habit. The same survey revealed that only 28% of respondents were aware of Campylobacter as a cause of food poisoning and only 31% of those knew that poultry is the main source of the pathogen. By contrast, more than 90% were aware of Salmonella and E. coli.
The Agency Chief Executive Catherine Brown said, “Although people tend to follow recommended practice when handling poultry, such as washing hands after touching raw chicken and making sure it is thoroughly cooked, our research has found that washing raw chicken is also common practice. That’s why we are calling on people to stop washing raw chicken and also raising awareness of the risks of contracting Campylobacter as a result of cross-contamination.”
The Agency has also written to TV production companies asking them to ensure that people shown preparing food are not seen to be washing raw poultry. The letter is co-signed by major food retailers.
More information about the campaign and the Agency’s Campylobacter strategy can be found here.