June 17, 2024

Chicken Safety and Cross-Contamination Issues in Restaurants

A study published in the Journal of Food Protection has found there is a big problem in restaurants and chicken preparation. The study found that many restaurants do not follow the FDA Food Code guidance about cross-contamination prevention and proper cooking, and that managers do not have the basic food safety knowledge about chicken.

Luxury Restaurant Table setting.Forty percent of managers said they “never, rarely, or only sometimes designate certain cutting boards for raw meat.” One-third of managers said they did not wash and rinse surfaces before sanitizing them. Over half of managers said thermometers weren’t used to determine the final internal temperature of chicken. And more than 50% of managers did not know the safe final internal temperature of cooked chicken. Finally, more than half of the managers rinsed or washed raw chicken, which creates cross-contamination in the area.

Poultry is the fourth most common food associated with foodborne illness, and the number one food associated with deaths from foodborne illness in the U.S. From 1998 through 2008, 61% of food poisoning outbreaks linked with poultry were also linked with restaurants or delis. Eating chicken outside the home is an important risk factor for foodborne illness.

Illness can be caused through cross-contamination, improper preparation, and unsafe holding. The FDA provides the basis for state and local food codes. The Food Code states that raw chicken should be cooked to 165°F or above for at least 15 seconds, and that the final temperature should be measured with a food thermometer.

The study was conducted by the Environmental health Specialists Network (EHS-NET), in California, Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Tennessee. Data was obtained from about 50 restaurants at each site. Kitchen managers in 448 restaurants participated in the study.

When cooking the chicken, 54% of managers said these methods were used to check doneness: appearance, feel or touch, a timer, and experience and skill. Of those who used thermometers, 28% said the tools were never calibrated or calibrated less often than once every week.

The study indicates that training and intervention efforts should be focused on restaurants and delis. Focus should be placed on identifying and addressing barriers to safe chicken preparation and cooking. Customers should ask how chicken is prepared and if it is cooked to a safe temperature as verified by a reliable food thermometer.

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