Washing meat and poultry is not recommended

Did you know that washing meat, poultry and eggs before cooking can lead to a higher risk of getting a foodborne illness?

Washing your hands is an important step whenever you are handling food, but did you know it is not recommended to wash your meats, poultry and eggs before you prepare them? When you wash meat, poultry and eggs before preparing, you are creating a risk of cross-contamination with the surfaces near your meat, including your sink and countertops. Researchers have found that people who wash their meat, poultry and eggs before cooking are actually at a higher risk of getting a foodborne illness. Researchers have found that the bacteria on meat and poultry can travel up to three feet from where the meat was washed. The foodsafety.gov website sponsored by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other governmental agencies state that washing raw meat and poultry helps to spread bacteria in the kitchen. All commercial eggs are washed before sale – further washing could damage the egg and increase the risk of cross-contamination.

The majority of bacteria on meat and poultry stays on the meat after washing, and eventually is killed in the cooking process. It is best to put your fresh meat directly into a pan and into the oven where the bacteria is killed. After handling raw meats and poultry it is important to wash your hands to prevent cross-contamination. The handwashing process should take at least 20 seconds. Use warm water to wet your hands then apply a generous amount of soap. Lather your hands with soap, and then scrub them for at least 10-15 seconds. Rinse again in warm water, and then dry your hands with a clean towel or air dry.

The bacteria Campylobacter jejuni and Salmonella are two pathogens most commonly associated with raw meat and poultry. According to the University of Wisconsin Extension, foodborne illness sickens approximately 47.8 million people in the U.S. per year, causing an estimated 127,839 hospitalizations and 3,037 deaths. Campylobacter can cause diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain and fever within two to five days from exposure. Diarrhea can be associated with nausea and vomiting. Many people mistake a foodborne illness for the common flu because of the similar symptoms.

Michigan State University Extension recommends protecting yourself from common foodborne illnesses by preventing cross-contamination. Don’t wash your meats, poultry or eggs before cooking. Do wash your hands after handling raw meats, poultry and eggs.

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