CDC reminds public not to wash raw chicken; some consumers still doubtful

Health agencies have shared the message again and again: Washing raw meat just causes the bacteria to splash around your sink, your hands and your clothes.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tweeted a reminder about this fact recently: “Don’t wash your raw chicken! Washing can spread germs from the chicken to other foods or utensils in the kitchen.”

Many Twitter users fired back, casting doubt on the idea that washing isn’t sufficient for getting rid of bacteria. Others vehemently insisted that washing chicken was what their families have always done, and they weren’t interested in shifting gears. Some pointed to homemade remedies believed to provide a more thorough wash, like soaking the raw meat with lemon juice, vinegar or saltwater (though these ingredients do not kill bacteria, according to science).

Others still pointed out that they believed they could eliminate bacteria concerns by washing counters and sinks after rinsing chicken. While disinfecting the countertops is always a wise choice and should be done anyway, rinsing chicken is still ineffective in the first place.

“Some of the bacteria are so tightly attached that you could not remove them no matter how many times you washed it,” U.S. Department of Agriculture spokesperson Marianne H. Gravely told BuzzFeed Food.

Instead of washing, the CDC and other agencies urge consumers to simply make sure they cook their meat to a suitably hot temperature before eating, which will kill any foodborne bacteria. Chicken must be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 165°F to be safely eaten — not even rinsing with very hot water can accomplish this.

One informal poll taken in 2017 found that 36% of respondents always rinsed their chicken, and maybe these consumers will never be swayed — cooking practices are deeply cultural, after all. Public health education initiatives, therefore, will continue to be a priority, then, for the CDC and others.

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