(NEXSTAR) — While it makes sense that you’d want to rinse off raw chicken under the tap before cooking it, a new initiative is working to explain why you shouldn’t. It turns out that washing the bird can just spread bacteria instead of getting rid of it.
The Don’t Wash Your Chicken program, backed by researchers at Drexel University, has a simple message for Americans. It’s don’t wash your chicken, in case you haven’t guessed.
Adding water on raw chicken can allow bacteria like salmonella and campylobacter to spread around your kitchen, contributing to food poisoning risk, Drexel researchers found. Rinsing can also cause bacteria to become aerosolized — making germs airborne, they say.
Through in-depth interviews with people who do rinse chickens, researchers learned one of the top reasons people do it is lack of trust in chicken processing.
“Chicken has already been washed,” the program says. “Today’s manufacturing cleans the chicken, so there is no filth, feathers, or anything else on it that needs to be washed off. Poultry may have a coating of water and protein: this gets cooked off, or you can remove it with a clean paper towel and then wash your hands.”
Don’t Wash Your Chicken says cooking chicken at 165°F (you’ll check this with a food thermometer) will kill any lingering bacteria.
Salmonella in raw poultry contributes to 93 million cases of foodborne illness and 155,000 deaths each year. For more information on Don’t Wash Your Chicken — a collaboration between Drexel University, the nonprofit Partnership for Food Safety Education and New Mexico State University — click here.
You can also find more on U.S. poultry processing and sanitation standards at the U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service.