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Ask Tufts Experts September 2019 Issue

Q. Should I wash my poultry before preparing it?

Image Evgen_Prozhyrko | Getty Images

Washing poultry may actually do more harm than good.

A. John Leong, MD, PhD, professor of molecular biology and microbiology, answers: “Raw poultry can be contaminated with Campylobacter, Salmonella and other potentially harmful bacteria, so it must be handled carefully. While many people believe that rinsing chicken before preparing it to be cooked will wash off disease-causing organisms, this common practice could actually increase risk of illness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Agriculture clearly state that people should NOT wash raw poultry because of the risk of spreading germs around the kitchen via small water droplets.

“To prevent poultry-based food poisoning: keep raw poultry refrigerated (or frozen); reserve a separate cutting board for raw chicken and meats; wash cutting boards, utensils, dishes, and countertops carefully with hot soapy water before and after use; prevent juices from raw poultry from contacting other foods or kitchen surfaces and utensils; wash hands thoroughly after handling raw poultry; and cook to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.”

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