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How 26 Percent of Participants Transferred Bacteria from Raw Chicken to Their Salads

Posted by Adam Ghering, MS, Public Affairs Specialist, Food Safety and Inspection Service, USDA in Health and Safety
Aug 20, 2019
Fresh baby greens in a salad on wood table
60% of participants contaminated the inner sink after washing raw chicken. 26% of salads were then contaminated by those participants that washed the chicken.

The debate on whether or not to wash raw poultry is a fierce one, but until recently it was not a debate backed by science. A recent study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) further demonstrates that individuals are putting themselves at risk of illness when they wash or rinse raw poultry.

“During this year’s study, 26 percent of participants that washed raw poultry transferred bacteria from that raw poultry to their ready to eat salad lettuce,” said Dr. Mindy Brashears, the USDA’s Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety. “Fortunately, small changes in the kitchen can lead to big health benefits for you and your family. Not washing meat and poultry reduces your risk of cross-contamination and can keep your family safe from foodborne illness.”

Many individuals may be unknowingly contaminating foods and causing illness for themselves or their family members. The good news is that the USDA has a few easy options to help prevent illness when you are preparing meat and poultry.

  • Significantly decrease your risk by preparing foods that will not be cooked, such as vegetables and salads, BEFORE handling and preparing raw meat and poultry.
    • Of the participants who washed their raw poultry, 60% had bacteria in their sink after washing or rinsing the poultry. Even more concerning was that 14% of participants still had bacteria in their sinks after they attempted to clean the sink.
  • Thoroughly clean and sanitize ANY surface that has potentially touched or been otherwise contaminated from raw meat and poultry, or their juices.
    • Of the participants that did not wash their raw poultry, 31% still managed to get bacteria from the raw poultry onto their salad lettuce.
    • This high rate of cross-contamination was likely due to a lack of effective handwashing and contamination of the sink and utensils.
      • Clean sinks and countertops with hot soapy water and then apply a sanitizer.
      • Use one cutting board for raw meat and poultry a different one for fruit, vegetables and cooked foods.
      • Wash hands immediately after handling raw meat and poultry. Wet your hands with water, lather with soap and then make sure you scrub your hands for 20 seconds.
  • Destroy any illness causing bacteria by cooking meat and poultry to a safe internal temperature as measured by a food thermometer.
    • Beef, pork, lamb and veal (steaks, roasts and chops) are safe to eat at 145°F.
    • Ground meats (burgers) are safe to eat at 160°F.
    • Poultry (whole or ground) are safe to eat at 165°F.
      • Washing, rinsing, or brining meat and poultry in salt water, vinegar or lemon juice does not destroy bacteria.

If you would like to talk about different options for preventing foodborne illness, you are in luck! You can call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline (1-888-674-6854) Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET, or email or chat at AskKaren.gov.

Category/Topic: Health and Safety

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Comments

Perdro Fravien
Aug 21, 2019

Yes, it is always good to wash your Vegetables and Fruits before you eat them.

Rose
Aug 21, 2019

Should already washed lettuces still be washed or are they safe to eat right out of the bag? Both organic and non organic?

Gwen Sciacca
Aug 21, 2019

Good advice. I learned the same thing when taking a food preservation course from a CSU extension agent many years ago.

Ben Weaver
Aug 21, 2019

@Rose - thank you for your comment. Salads and other produce that are labeled as already washed do not need to be rinsed or washed again. Regardless if they are organic or non-organic. These products are safe if eaten straight out of the package.

Laurie Mack
Aug 21, 2019

I don't understand how the data justifies the conclusions. 31% of the people who did not wash their poultry transferred bacteria versus 26% who did. Washing poultry REDUCED the prevalence of bacterial transfer.
And "Of the participants who washed their raw poultry, 60% had bacteria in their sink after washing or rinsing the poultry. " this statement doesn't have a comparator of sink bacteria for the non-washers.
I'd really appreciate the explanation.

Marie
Aug 22, 2019

What do you recommend using as sanitizer?

Sandra J Lind
Aug 22, 2019

Throughout my life my parents washed poultry always....and always used separate means of cutting veggies and any meats and sanitation......we never got sick...I am an RN and still wash my poultry. My parents practiced safe food handling due to working in restaurants as well as myself In our lifetimes…... so I feel what my parents have done which transferred over to their children during the years doing the same that these safe practices has been very effective and best for all of us.. I however question safe handling in restaurants I eat at. because they have high turnovers of college kids who I feel can be very careless if they are under poor management.

dianne
Aug 22, 2019

I use colored cutting boards. blue or black trim for raw meats etc ., green, white and light colors for fruits and veggies.

Eric D.
Aug 30, 2019

“During this year’s study, 26 percent of participants that washed raw poultry transferred bacteria from that raw poultry to their ready to eat salad lettuce,”

And

◦Of the participants that did not wash their raw poultry, 31% still managed to get bacteria from the raw poultry onto their salad lettuce.

I think you missed something here.

jeremiah piner
Sep 09, 2019

This affects my family because we eat a lot of poultry

kamren pierce
Sep 09, 2019

this article is about how you should wash your foods and make sure they are fully clean before eating them to prevent sickness, food poisoning or death. no this article doesent effect me because my family washes they food everytime before eating it. i fill safe eating are food with no worrys i might get sick.

zaahyr cousar
Sep 12, 2019

should have clean water so if you washing raw foods they wouldn't be cross-contamination like sink not good because bacteria could be on the lettuce or whatever like deer park water or any bottled water work's and won't have bacteria on food and won't get a foodborne illness