Almost half of Australians surveyed are washing raw chicken before cooking it, according to a poll.

A consumer survey by the Food Safety Information Council and Australian Chicken Meat Federation found 49 percent of people reported washing whole, raw chicken. However, this is down from 60 percent when the question was posed a decade ago.

Washing raw poultry can spread bacteria to hands, surfaces and other foods that may not be cooked. It is also unnecessary as cooking poultry to 75 degrees C (167 degrees F) as measured with a food thermometer in the center of a fillet or the thickest part of the thigh will kill any bacteria.

The survey was conducted nationally by Omnipoll with 1,219 people aged 18 and older in October ahead of the holidays and the Australian summer.

Cathy Moir, Food Safety Information Council chair, said washing any raw poultry is risky.

“We are pleased that rates of washing raw whole chicken has reduced from 60 percent to 49 percent since we last asked this question in 2011. Cooks who wash raw chicken pieces with skin on has also reduced from 52 percent to 43 percent and washing skinless pieces from 41 percent to 40 percent,” she said.

“The survey found that chicken is a popular dish with 78 percent of respondents cooking whole chicken, 83 percent cooking chicken pieces with skin on and 88 percent cooking skinless pieces. But the message is that washing any raw poultry, whether it is chicken, duck, goose or the Christmas turkey, is both unsafe and unnecessary.”

Hot weather
Other holiday and summer entertaining food safety tips include washing hands with soap and water before preparing and cooking food, and after handling shell eggs, seafood, raw meat and poultry, burgers and sausages.

Reduced salt hams are becoming popular but will not last as long as conventional hams so check storage instructions and dates on products. Refrigerate leftovers as soon as possible.

Tools, utensils and chopping boards should be cleaned and dried thoroughly before starting to prepare food and cleaned with hot soapy water after use. Use separate chopping boards such as red for raw meat and poultry and green for vegetables.

Plan ahead and don’t buy more food than you need so the refrigerator and freezer are not overstocked. Try to avoid raw or minimally cooked egg dishes, such as raw egg mayonnaise or aioli, eggnog or desserts like tiramisu, which can pose a higher risk of food poisoning.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)

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