Food Safety Tips: How to Handle Chicken Safely
Though millions of Americans handle chicken every day, chicken and eggs account for the majority of foodborne illnesses in the United States, according to the CDC. Chicken is eaten more than any other meat in America, even though raw chicken contains three types of foodborne illness causing bacteria: Campylobacter, Salmonella, and Clostridium perfringens. During the process of cooking and consuming chicken, people are exposed to the bacteria both by eating undercooked chicken and through ingesting raw chicken juices.
A dangerous myth concerning handling raw chicken is the need to wash it in order to limit foodborne illness causing bacteria exposure. In actuality, health officials have vehemently warned against this method. During the process of washing the poultry, raw juices often splash off of the chicken onto the person washing it and surrounding surfaces. These juices are then ingested and frequently cause food poisoning. Any bacteria on the chicken can be destroyed during the cooking process; thus, washing raw chicken is unnecessary and hazardous.
In order to avoid cross contamination and food poisoning from raw chicken, the following steps can be taken: Before and after handling the chicken, hands should be washed properly with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds. Any surface that has been in contact with the raw chicken or in the surrounding area, such as a cutting board or kitchen counter, should be sanitized directly after use. After purchasing the chicken, place it in a reusable sealed container to avoid the chicken juice dripping on other foods in the refrigerator.
Methods to confirm that chicken has been cooked properly have long been disputed and no foolproof method has been truly established on how to avoid food poisoning from chicken, evident by numerous Salmonella cases caused by poultry. In fact, a Plos One publication recently released data that the majority of homes are undercooking chicken because of faulty food thermometers and false indicators. The CDC officially recommends that chicken should be cooked until it has reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit, placing a food thermometer in the thickest part of the meat without touching bone or fat. Leftover cooked chicken should be refrigerated or frozen within 2 hours of cooking or within 1 hour if the outside temperature if above 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Although food poisoning symptoms from poultry can differ depending on the foodborne illness causing bacteria, typical food poisoning symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, high fever above 102 degrees Fahrenheit, bloody stool, and signs of dehydration should be reported to a physician for a formal diagnosis.