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Wash Your Hands, Not Raw Chicken

Thursday, 04 June 2020

In recognition of World Food Safety Day 2020, the FSAI and safefood remind people never to wash raw chicken.

In recognition of World Food Safety Day, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) and safefood remind people never to wash raw chicken.

  • 32% of adults cooking more from scratch¹ due to Covid-19 restrictions
  • 49% report cooking more² than they did before
  • 40% of 18-34s regularly searching³ for recipes online

With more people now cooking at home than ever before, safefood is reminding people never to wash raw chicken when preparing it. Washing raw chicken can spread food poisoning bacteria up to an arm’s length from your sink, which could cause you and others to get sick.

Recent research has revealed the changing domestic food habits of people since the onset of Covid-19. 1 in 3 adults (32%) report that they are cooking more from scratch¹. A separate survey also found that almost half (49%) of adults reported cooking more² than they did before. The same survey also revealed that 4 in 10 (40%) of 18-34 year olds now regularly search³ for recipes online.

Minister for Health Simon Harris T.D said

    “COVID-19 has affected every aspect of life in Ireland - including how we are all eating our meals. Many more of us are now cooking at home, and some of us might be doing it for the first time. So now is a good time to keep up good personal hygiene behaviours like hand washing, for lots of crucial safety reasons - and of course food safety is an important one. It’s key to stay informed from trusted sources like the Food Safety Authority of Ireland and safefood, and keep hygiene at the top of your mind when preparing food at home for yourself and your household.”

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, T.D., welcomed the recognition of the 2nd World Food Safety Day, stating
    “While the Irish people are rightly focussed on the collective effort to contain and suppress the Covid-19 pandemic, it is important not to lose sight of the critical work that goes in to maintaining the very high standard of food safety, traceability and authenticity that is the hallmark of Irish food produce. Promoting and safeguarding public health is a strategic priority for my Department.”

Minister Creed pointed out that “food safety is a shared responsibility from production to consumption, and I am pleased to recognise the efforts in this regard of individual food business operators across the country, as well as of their representative groups, in their work to continuously provide safe and nutritious food to the consumer. Given the theme of this year’s campaign, it is only right to recognise in particular the work of the Poultry Stakeholder Group, under the chairmanship of Professor. Patrick Wall, which continues to develop and refine a comprehensive ‘farm to fork’ approach to food safety in that sector, in close collaboration with my Department.”

Mr Ray Dolan, CEO, safefood said; “The restrictions caused by Covid-19 means that more of us are cooking at home than ever before. For some people, that might mean cooking from scratch for the very first time. So we’d like to remind you that if you’re preparing chicken, never wash it. While you might think you’re cleaning it, you’re actually spreading harmful bacteria up to 80cm, or about an arm’s length, from your sink. It’s thorough cooking of chicken that safely destroys any food poisoning bacteria that are on it. Chicken is cooked thoroughly when it is piping hot, with no pink meat and the juices are running clear. Wash your hands before and after handling raw chicken and wash any utensils or work surfaces that come into contact with it to prevent cross-contamination in your kitchen. Those most at risk of getting sick from food poisoning are the very young, the elderly, those with an existing medical condition and pregnant women. So the advice is always to wash your hands and never wash raw chicken.”

Dr Pamela Byrne, Chief Executive, Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), said that food businesses need to continue to be on high alert to stop the spread of bacteria when preparing chicken and reminded of the legal onus to ensure the food they provide is safe to eat for their customers.

    “The control of bacteria, such as Campylobacter, needs to be managed throughout the entire food chain from farm to fork. Caterers and retailers using raw chicken in their dishes should assume that it contains harmful bacteria. There is no step during processing chicken which can guarantee bacteria removal, except cooking at correct temperatures. We know that the practice of washing chicken can spread harmful bacteria. We are reminding caterers and retailers of their legal obligation to follow best hygienic practices at all times to prevent cross-contamination between raw poultry and ready-to-eat food. A basic rule is to never wash raw chicken as this can lead to contamination to other food stuffs and kitchen surfaces; always store raw chicken correctly and ultimately, the last line of defence is to ensure chicken is cooked thoroughly. This is done by ensuring that the core or thickest part of the chicken reaches 75°C.”


1. Bord Bia “Future Proofing” Report (2020)
2; 3. “Staying in” Quarterly Report (2020)

Editor’s Notes:
Campylobacter is a bacteria which is found in raw chicken. While this bacteria is harmless to chicken, it is the most common cause of bacterial food poisoning on the island of Ireland; in 2018, there were more than 3,000 notified cases in the Republic of Ireland, an increase of more than 8% on the previous year.