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Washing Raw Chicken May Increase Food Poisoning

Last updated June 27, 2015

Approved by: Maulik P. Purohit MD MPH

A new study suggests that washing raw chicken may potentially lead to a dangerous form of food poisoning caused by Campylobacter bacteria, which spread via hands, clothing, cooking utensils and work surfaces as water droplets splash from the raw meat.


There has been a common notion that washing your chicken will prevent contamination. However, a new study suggests that washing raw chicken may potentially lead to a dangerous form of food poisoning caused by Campylobacterbacteria, which spread via hands, clothing, cooking utensils and work surfaces as water droplets splash from the raw meat.

In the United Kingdom, approximately 44 percent of the people wash their chicken. Now, the United Kingdom’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) is recommending its citizens to stop washing their chicken in order to reduce the estimated 280,000 individuals each year who have suffered from food poisoning. Eighty percent of these contamination cases are caused by tainted poultry.

The Campylobacterbacterium cause campylobacteriosis, which leads to diarrhea (sometimes bloody, with nausea and vomiting), abdominal pain, cramping and fever within two to five days of contact. Sometimes, patients do not experience any symptoms.

Individuals with weak immune systems may experience a life-threatening infection, because the bacteria are more prone to enter the bloodstream. These individuals are most likely to be children under the age of five years and the elderly above 65 years of age.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just one drop of chicken juice contains enough bacteria to infect a person.

The reasons people reported washing chicken were to remove dirt (36 percent), get rid of germs (36 percent) and because they had always done it (33 percent).

Additional resources:

Campylobacter

We are urging the public to stop washing raw chicken

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: June 17, 2014
Last updated: June 27, 2015