October 17, 2021

Don’t Wash That Bird! Animation Shows Spread of Contamination

Remember when we told you last year to not wash turkeys and chickens before you cook them? Washing just spreads pathogenic bacteria around the kitchen. Now there’s visual proof of what happens when raw meat is rinsed under the kitchen faucet.

Raw Chicken on PaperDrexel University has launched a new campaign called “Don’t Wash Your Chicken” to urge consumers to drop the habit. They ┬áhave released a video filmed with what they call “germ vision” that shows how bacteria spread onto adjacent surfaces (and you) when a chicken is rinsed under running water. Oddly, the film focuses on “minority populations”, because those groups seem to be more likely to wash raw poultry before cooking.

When you wash raw meat under running water, the bacteria “aerosolizes”, or becomes airborne, and it can end up three feet away from the sink. If you’re a shorter person, the bacteria could end up on your face and mouth.

Jennifer Quinlan, a food safety researchers at the University, told NPR “there’s no reason, from a scientific point of view, to think you’re making it any safer, and in fact, you’re making it less safe. You should assume that if you have chicken, you have either Salmonella or Campylobacter bacteria in it, if not both. If you wash it, you’re more likely to spray bacteria all over the kitchen and yourself.”

The USDA recommends that poultry, beef, pork, lamb, and veal should not be washed before cooking. Public health officials also say that only cooking meats to a safe internal temperature kills bacteria that can make you sick.


  1. marjorie umlauf says

    I work In Field Investigations and we test food for antimicrbial resistence. Chicken always has salmonella on its skin and if it is under cooked you get a 3 day visit to the toilet. Telling people willy nilly not to wash thier poultry is wreckless. Campybacter also readily grows and it likes a nice warm environmnet.

    • Linda Larsen says

      The only way to kill bacteria on chickens is to cook it. Washing the bird spreads pathogenic bacteria around the kitchen; that is a proven fact. What’s “reckless” is telling people to wash poultry. We also constantly tell people that they must cook chicken to at least 165 degrees F to kill bacteria.

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