In April, the CDC tweeted a warning concerning the dangers of washing or rinsing raw chicken. If you’re active on Twitter, you can probably imagine the storm of retweets, comments and controversy this simple tweet caused. This week, we’ll take a look at what ServSafe food training says about this issue.
Washing Chicken and ServSafe Food Training
Perusing the Minnesota food code and ServSafe food training materials, we find no definitive ruling saying that washing raw chicken is prohibited. However, if you feel the need to wash your raw poultry before production, steps must be taken to prevent the spread of bacteria from cross contamination.
First, never wash your chicken, or any other food product, in sinks that are designated for dishwashing. Washing or rinsing raw chicken near dishes creates the potential for contaminated water to splash onto areas where clean may be. You also run the risk of exposing your chicken to dish-washing chemicals.
If this is a regular occurrence in your facility, mandate a designated sink for this purpose. Having a raw protein area will reduce the risks of salmonella or other pathogens from coming into contact with counters, utensils or other food product that will not be cooked to high enough temperatures to kill bacteria.
Finally, thoroughly sanitize sinks and utensils used to rinse raw chicken as soon as possible. Salmonella bacteria will spread and multiply and there will be an increased risk of cross contamination if the preparation area is not taken care of immediately.
These procedures shouldn’t only apply to rinsing raw product. You should take the same precautions when thawing raw chicken and other items that contain bacteria under running water. Bacteria can spread from thawing food just as fast fresh, raw proteins.
The intent of the CDC’s tweet was probably intended for people cooking at home, but it can be a warning to take care even for food service professionals. What causes an isolated food-borne illness at home has the potential to create an outbreak when food is improperly handled on a greater scale.