Washing raw chicken increases risk for food poisoning

Washing raw chicken greatly increases the risk of food poisoning, Medical News Today reports.

A new study conducted by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in the United Kingdom found that 44 percent of people in the UK wash chicken before cooking it. However, washing raw chicken may lead to the spread of campylobacter bacteria, which can lead to a dangerous form of food poisoning.

When washed, campylobacter from raw chicken can be transferred into water droplets, which may splash onto neighboring surfaces, hands, clothing, and cooking utensils. If the campylobacter bacteria are ingested directly or via unwashed cutting boards and utensils, they can cause campylobacteriosis, characterized by symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, cramping, and fever.

Though some people experience no symptoms from campylobacter, in rare cases, the bacteria can spread to the bloodstream and cause a life-threatening infection. This infection is more likely to occur in people with weak immune systems, young children, and the elderly.

Campylobacter can also be a precursor to other conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, reactive arthritis, and Guillain-Barré syndrome, a debilitating disease of the nervous system.

Even though campylobacter is the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK, there is very low public awareness about it. In an FSA study, only 28 percent of those surveyed were familiar with campylobacter, compared to 90 percent who were familiar with salmonella and E. coli.

As a part of Food Safety Week, the FSA plans to increase awareness about campylobacter through a letter co-signed by major food companies and a plea to TV food shows to not wash raw chicken on air. The FSA hopes that their attempt to increase awareness about the dangers of washing raw chicken will help reduce the over 280,000 incidences of illness from campylobacter that occur each year.

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