Can you wash chicken before cooking it?

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Raw chicken could possibly be contaminated with bacteria such as salmonella or campylobacter, so many people feel more comfortable washing their chicken before cooking it. However, rumour has it that this process puts you more at risk of food poisoning. Can you wash chicken?

Raw chicken is a health risk because it is often contaminated with bacteria.

Eating raw or undercooked chicken can give you a foodborne illness.

Because of this association with bacteria and food poisoning, you might be tempted to wash your raw chicken under the tap before you cook it.

But can you REALLY wash chicken, and is this the best way to prevent salmonella or campylobacter?

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Can you wash chicken?

You should never wash chicken before cooking it because this can increase your risk of food poisoning.

According to the NHS website, splashing water from washing chicken under a tap can spread the bacteria onto your hands, work surfaces, clothing and cooking equipment.

Cleaning the area after washing the chicken won’t save you either – water droplets can travel more than 50cm in every direction, so you’re bound to miss a few spots.

Only a few campylobacter cells are needed to cause food poisoning.

Campylobacter is the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK, and it’s usually found in undercooked meat (particularly poultry), unpasteurised milk and untreated water.

Campylobacter poisoning can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach cramps, fever, and feeling generally unwell.

Symptoms will normally start within a few days of eating the contaminated food, but you may feel sick just hours after eating it.

Washing your chicken is just one way to put yourself at higher risk of catching campylobacter poisoning.

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The NHS site explains exactly how to prevent campylobacter poisoning when it comes to storing, preparing and eating chicken.

Always cover raw chicken and store it at the bottom of the fridge where it is coldest and where juices cannot drip onto other foods and contaminate them.

Never wash raw chicken, but always wash and clean the utensils, chopping boards and surfaces used to prepare the raw chicken.

Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling the raw chicken to prevent spreading campylobacter cells.

Never leave raw chicken out in the open for too long and always eat it before its use by date.

Everyone is wary of uncooked chicken, and for good reason.

The NHS advice states: “Make sure chicken is steaming hot all the way through before serving.

“Cut into the thickest part of the meat to check it’s steaming hot with no pink meat and the juices run clear.”

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