Don’t wash raw chicken in the kitchen

“I always give my bird a generous butter massage before I put it in the oven. Why? Because I think the chicken likes it — and, more important, I like to give it.”

We continue our extended series of dangers in the house and the things we eat, with this story from National Public Radio. Long time readers of BIO230 will recall that I am no fan of cleanliness in the kitchen, and quite frankly this report comes as absolutely no surprise to me. Julia Child (pictured here) was a strong advocate of washing out the chicken carcass prior to adding seasoning and popping it in the oven. We are all likely aware that proper cooking of poultry greatly reduces the risk of food-borne disease from the roast chicken. But what about the rest of the kitchen?

It turns out that the act of rinsing out things in the kitchen sink results in the dispersal of huge numbers of microorganisms from the sink. Organisms present on poultry such as Salmonella and Campylobacter can be spread from the sink over a large area, up to at least 3 feet away from the sink. Food safety researcher Jennifer Quinlan of Drexel University is currently promoting a public health campaign to educate consumers of the potential danger of aerosolized pathogens from washed poultry. Her advice? Just make sure that the bird is cooked to an internal temperature sufficient to eliminate food-borne pathogens, and skip the washing step. To illustrate the risks of washing that bird, they show the dispersal of pathogens with “Germ-O-Vision:”

Commenters! For #bonus, identify reports in the media, or in the published literature (for example, via Pubmed) about additional microbiological dangers in the house. I will reward your work with a bonus point in Blackboard, which will also enable you to submit your own blog summaries later in the term for additional bonus! Here are the rules: this only goes through Monday September 9th (1 week to play), you must have something different than what has appeared in the comment thread (no repeats,) and you must include a link to click. Please note, if you have never commented on this blog before, you will not see it appear immediately. I will release it from moderation as soon as I see the comment.


About ycpmicro

My name is David Singleton, and I am an Associate Professor of Microbiology at York College of Pennsylvania. My main course is BIO230, a course taken by allied-health students at YCP. Views on this site are my own.

Posted on September 1, 2013, in Bonus!, Danger danger danger!, gross. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. So this is why my dad never washed the chicken before he cooked it! This post got me thinking of how many things that we use in our daily lives that could potentially spread germs. I found an article that made me think twice about ever leaving my purse on a table again and caused me to think twice about using those community computer keyboards in the library! Ugh, I need to go wash my hands!

  2. Emily L. Vandament

    Reading these comments makes me cringe, knowing that aside from my job at Isaac’s, I will most likely control the safety of the food I provide my children. Further researching led me to discover on kitchen sponges lay a bed of multiple microbiological bacteria. They tested and found dish soup killed the bacteria in the laboratory but not in the kitchen. On the kitchen sponges, yeast and molds, pseudomonads, and E. coli were unaffected by the soup but Salmonella was killed. Knowing this, I now understand the importance of throwing out old sponges!

    • We toss out sponges when we remember to get new ones at Giant. Someday I might tell the story of Prof. Singleton, his anti-bacterial sponge, and the Great Fish Kill.

  3. Okay…I am not too sure I like this bonus assignment…these articles are grossing me out! On the plus side, I am definitely going to be more aware of my germ-infested surroundings and enlist in hand-washing/sanitizing more often. I found an article about household dishwashers…I don’t know what’s better now….using the fungus-infected dishwasher or the old sponge!

  4. I think a lot of us are shocked by this realization that the counter isn’t as clean as we thought and even the kitchen in general. We all thought we were doing the right thing by washing in the sink. Another common place people think of when it comes to microbiological dangers is the bathroom, especially the toilet. In the article I found about bathrooms, studies have shown that the toilet seat itself isn’t even the biggest threat! Similar to the splash zone in the above article, studies show that when the toilet is flushed germs from feces get flung upward and can cause contamination if inhaled! So even if you use a toilet seat cover or have a clean seat, that doesn’t necessarily mean you are protected – the best thing to do is get away fast.

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