Washing chicken increases health risks: Which?

Three-quarters of people who buy a whole chicken will wash it before cooking it, increasing the risk of food poisoning, says consumer magazine Which?

Which? said that if the chicken is contaminated with bacteria, washing the bird can spread that bacteria on to work surfaces for up to a one-metre radius.

In addition, when the magazine asked over 1,000 members of the public what they thought was the largest cause of food poisoning, 56% said salmonella. Only 2% identified campylobacter, which the Food Standards Agency recently discovered in 65% of raw shop-bought chicken.

Peter Vicary-Smith, Which? chief executive, said: “It shouldn’t be up to consumers to clean up problems made earlier in the food chain, but if you’re planning on cooking a whole chicken, be aware that if it’s infected, washing it actually increases the risk of food poisoning. Stay safe by cutting out the cleaning and cooking it through thoroughly.”

Which? added that more can be done across the whole production chain to reduce the level of infection – including improved hygiene in slaughterhouses and the houses where birds are raised, such as fitting fly screens to the houses and workers changing their clothes and shoes.

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