Possibly not as safe as you think, according to researchers at the University of California, Davis who took a look at videos showing how lax many home cooks are about food safety basics. The worst offense? Not washing hands after handling raw chicken. People, that is not a healthy practice!
The next big mistakes: washing raw chicken in the sink and undercooking the chicken. I came across the UC Davis study while web surfing and decided to blog about it. I was shocked to learn that these unhealthy practices are so widespread despite the fact that 48 percent of the study participants reported having formal food safety training!
Here are the major mistakes home cooks make:
Washing raw chicken: 50 percent of the study participants were taped washing raw chicken in the sink prior to cooking. This is a major food-safety no-no since washing chicken can cause the spread of bacteria over multiple kitchen surfaces where those invisible bugs sit waiting for the next food to contaminate. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) raw poultry is often contaminated with salmonella and campylobacter, the germs that are the leading causes for food poisoning. Cross-contamination — putting other food down on a surface that may have picked up bugs scattered when you washed raw chicken — is believed to play a role in food borne illness. Here’s the main message: Washing does not get rid of any bacteria on raw chicken, pork, meat, or fish, so there’s no point in doing it..
Undercooking chicken: But the study found that a surprising number of people undercooked their chicken. You need an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit (F) to get rid of the bugs. Here’s where you can find safe cooking temperatures for most foods. You may not think you’re under-cooking chicken, but the UC Davis researchers found that no matter what kind of chicken dish they were preparing, 40 percent of the study participants undercooked chicken and only 29 percent knew that 165 degrees F is the correct cooking temperature. Participants reported rarely using cooking thermometers. Only 48 percent owned these essential gadgets and of those, 69 percent said they seldom used thermometers to check if chicken is completely cooked.
Not Washing Your Hands: So you just picked up that raw chicken and put it in the oven. Now’s the time to wash your hands… again! Do you think the bacteria on the chicken are so loyal that they won’t hitch a ride on your hands to the next food you touch? The UC Davis study found that 65 percent of participants didn’t bother with hand washing before handling raw chicken and 38 percent didn’t wash afterward. Yuck. Here’s the rule: wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before and after handling raw chicken (or other raw meat). Think about it: 20 seconds could make the difference between you or your spouse or kids getting sick. I’m a nurse. Hand washing has been drummed into my head. Make it standard practice in your kitchen.
Sanitize Your Kitchen: Finally, be sure to properly sanitize your cutting boards, knives and countertops. I prefer using non-toxic, environmentally safe, cleaning agents. I use plastic or ceramic cutting boards. Never ever cut meat, poultry or fish on wood! Use separate cutting boards for proteins and produce. I soak cutting boards and utensils overnight in the sink which kills the bacteria in the sink as well as on the cutting board. Be sure to clean all surfaces thoroughly including those easily missed spots, like drawer knobs and refrigerator handles.