Date PostedNovember 21, 2012

How to Handle Chicken Safely

Source: Geoff Peters

As part of Food Safety Week here in Oz, much attention has been given to chicken consumption safety and how to cook chicken in a way that destroys harmful bacteria, minimising the risk of contracting a foodborne illness.

Raw chicken and poultry especially can carry bacteria, particularly salmonella bacteria, which is responsible for more cases of food poisoning than any other pathogen in the world. The good news is that it is easily avoidable with the proper food handling practices.

When shopping for chicken and poultry at the shop ensure you but fresh chicken. It should be kept in a cold fridge to prevent bacteria multiplying. Packages of chicken should feel cold to the touch, and should be among the last items you select before checking out. Packages of chicken should be wrapped in plastic bags to prevent leakage onto other items in your grocery cart. Also check that it is well within its expiry date before buying and eating it. Once you’re home, you should immediately place your chicken in a refrigerator that maintains a temperature of 40°F or colder, and use it within 2 days. Otherwise, it should be frozen at 0°F.

When you are ready to cook it, make sure you thaw it safely, do not use a microwave but rather leave it in the refrigerator to thaw well before you are ready to cook it. Most chicken should thaw completely overnight. Do not leave the chicken out of the fridge to thaw because this is the temperature that promotes bacteria growth.

When ready to prepare the chicken make sure it is cooked to a high enough temperature for a long enough time to kill the bacteria that carry and spread illness. Make sure food products are not left at room temperatures between 40°F and 140°F for more than an hour or two. Also freezing does not kill these bacteria, they must be cooked thoroughly.

Another major concern and the main issue of this year’s food safety week is the issue of chicken cross contamination. Cross-contamination can happen when raw chicken or its juices come into contact with any other food products, especially those already cooked or ones that will be eaten raw, such as salad vegetables or greens.(For example cutting raw chicken on a cutting board and then later slicing fresh tomatoes on the same board without washing it first.)

The most common bacterium present in raw or undercooked chicken are:

  • Salmonella Enteritidis: This bacteria can be simply combatted with proper cooking or pasteurization of milk and cheese. The most common sources of the bacteria are foods like eggs, poultry, meat as well as milk, cheese, fruit and vegetables.
  • Staphylococcus aureus:Staph is just one of the illnesses that can result from food contamination due to poor hygiene and is most prevalent in chicken, turkey, duck and other poultry.
  • Campylobacter jejuni: This is another bacteria that can be avoided by properly handling food and cooking it to high enough temperatures.
  • Listeria monocytogenes:Listeria is spread because of the way food is stored, handled and consumed which may affect and contribute to listeria contamination. The highest risk foods are ready-to-eat foods and those stored at refrigeration temperature for a long period such as fruit or other ready to eat foods

So beware of these dangerous pathogens and make sure chicken is safely handled and thoroughly cooked prior to consumption.


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