Stop Washing Chicken! Rinsing Raw Poultry Only Spreads Germs, Doesn't Kill Them [VIDEO]

By Josh Lieberman on August 27, 2013 1:38 PM EDT

chicken
Rinsing chicken in the sink only spreads germs and doesn't kill bacteria, says Jennifer Quinlan of Drexel University. (Photo: Flickr: candyb)

Don't wash raw chicken. Just don't. That's the advice of Drexel University food safety researcher Jennifer Quinlan, who helped develop an aptly-titled food safety campaign called "Don't Wash Your Chicken!"

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"The reality is the water is hitting the chicken," Quinlan said. "Much is going down [the drain] but then you have what is called aerosolization -- an invisible spray that's going to potentially carry that bacteria for a foot or two feet."

If you're having trouble visualizing what an invisible spray of chicken germs flying around a room looks like, see this short video produced for the Drexel campaign. Though the animated video is strangely 1990s-looking, the "Germ-Vision" will convince you to never wash raw chicken again. Watch glob after glob of bacteria, such as salmonella, flies around the room, cross-contaminating nearby paper towels, utensils and a package of cheese.

According to Quinlan, there's absolutely no scientific reason to wash raw chicken. Rinsing with water doesn't wash off whatever bacteria may be present on the chicken, and you're only risking further contaminating anything within a few feet of the chicken (as we learned with the Germ-Vision). The only way to kill bacteria is to properly cook chicken. That's it.

The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service warns against washing raw chicken too, and has been doing so since 2005.

"Washing raw poultry, beef, pork, lamb, or veal before cooking it is not recommended," the USDA says on their website. "Bacteria in raw meat and poultry juices can be spread to other foods, utensils, and surfaces."

Despite this advice from the USDA and other organizations, the practice is still widespread. A survey done as part of Quinlan's campaign found that about 90 percent of people wash raw chicken. And Slate's Browbeat blog found that plenty of good cooks have recommended rinsing raw chicken, among them Martha Stewart, Mark Bittman and even James Beard, the namesake behind the prestigious James Beard Awards (often referred to as "the Oscars of food").

So don't wash raw chicken, but do cook poultry to a temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit. And do watch the "Don't Wash Your Chicken!" video below.

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