Australian food safety experts warn food poisoning from chicken is on the rise

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 14th November 2012

The Food Safety Information Council has released concerning national survey data this week that shows 60% of home cooks in Australia are putting themselves at additional risk of food poisoning from chicken.

The data showed that 60 per cent were at risk from washing whole poultry before it was cooked, which can spread bacteria around the kitchen. A further 16% of those surveyed incorrectly tasted chicken to see if it was cooked properly rather than using a safe meat thermometer.

The focus on cross-contamination of meats by the Food Safety Information Council (FSIC) comes as yesterday marked the start of Australian Food Safety Week. The FSIC week is specifically focusing on chicken and those most affected by food poisoning with the theme “vulnerable populations.”

Food Safety Information Council Chairman, Dr Michael Eyles said that chicken, as Australia’s most popular meat, was consumed by 8 in every ten home cooks.

”Home cooks are probably following what their parents or grandparents did in the past by washing poultry, not to mention probably patting it dry with a tea towel. Washing poultry splashes these bacteria around the kitchen cross contaminating sinks, taps, your hands, utensils, chopping boards and foods that aren’t going to be cooked like salads or desserts,” Dr Eyles said.

“Chicken is a healthy, convenient meal [but] other poultry is also becoming popular with just under half of those surveyed cooking whole turkey and 37% whole duck but these, too, are being washed before cooking, with 68% washing turkey and 74% duck,” he added.

According to a Food Standards Australia New Zealand survey referenced by the Food Safety Information Council, 84 per cent of raw chicken carcasses tested positive to the food poisoning bacteria Campylobacter and 22 per cent to Salmonella.

FSIC reported that notified cases of illness from Campylobacter and Salmonella in Australia have almost doubled over the last 20 years. OzFoodnet estimates there are approximately 220,000 cases of Campylobacter infection each year with more than 75 per cent transmitted by food and 50,000 cases of Campylobacter infection each year can be attributed either directly or indirectly to chicken meat.

The theme of Australian Food Safety Week for 2012 is cross contamination. The Food Safety Information Council supplied the following tips to avoid cross contamination from raw poultry:

·         Do not wash raw poultry before cooking as this will spread any bacteria throughout your kitchen. You can mop up any excess moisture with paper towel.

·         Always wash and dry hands and clean surfaces after contact with raw poultry.

·         Defrost poultry in the fridge or microwave in a container which prevents juices dripping on other food.

·         Make sure the raw poultry juices do not contaminate other food, especially food like desserts or salads that won’t be cooked again.

·         Always use clean plates and utensils and wash and dry thoroughly between using for raw and cooked poultry. Never place cooked food back on the same plate or cutting board that previously held raw poultry.

·         Also cook any poultry meat to 75°C using a meat thermometer in the thickest part or until the juices run clear and are no longer pink. Make sure frozen poultry is defrosted right through to the centre before cooking.