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Nix the Rinse: Why Washing Your Chicken is Hazardous to Your Health

August 29, 2013

Don't Wash Your ChickenDo you have raw chicken sitting in your refrigerator at home right now? If the answer to that question is yes, “you should assume that you have either Salmonella or Campylobacter bacteria on it, if not both,” Jennifer Quinlan, PhD, an associate professor in the Nutrition Sciences Department, explains. With the support of a USDA grant and doctoral candidates Shauna Henley and Pat Borrusso, she is conducting food safety research in Philadelphia that has resulted in the “Don’t Wash Your Chicken” campaign, which includes a series of short videos demonstrating the hazards of washing chicken before cooking it.

Salmonella and Campylobacter bacteria are the leading causes of food-borne illness. “If you wash [your chicken], you’re more likely to spray bacteria all over the kitchen and yourself,” Quinlan said. The water that you use to rinse chicken and other ingredients is not hot enough to kill any bacteria anyway, so why wash chicken if it only increases the risk that these dangerous bacteria will be spread? Instead, cook the chicken properly- so that the interior temperature reaches at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit- in order to kill any germs present.

Although the USDA’s recommendation against washing chicken has been around for number of years, many Americans remain unaware of the dangers posed by this all too common kitchen habit. However, thanks to Quinlan’s work and the Don’t Wash Your Chicken campaign, the message is being spread wide and far. So far, the story has been picked up by NPR, NPR Morning Edition, Slate, MSN, Prevention, and Metro. Even Food Network star Alton Brown shared his thoughts on the germ-spreading practice with a humorous illustration on Twitter.Alton Brown Drawing