How to Shop for, Handle, & Store Chicken

How to Shop for, Handle, & Store Chicken
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Poultry is the most common cause of serious food-poisoning outbreaks, followed by fish, then beef. But aren’t people more likely to order their burgers rarer than their chicken sandwiches? The primary location where outbreaks occur is the home, not restaurants.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

In 2017, a study of more than a thousand food-poisoning outbreaks determined that poultry, specifically chicken, was the most common culprit, highlighting “the role of poultry as a major source of foodborne outbreaks in the United States.” Fish was second; beef was third. But, aren’t people more likely to order their burgers rarer than their chicken sandwiches? The biggest problem isn’t the cooking, but the handling—both at home and in the store.

“A…shop-along study…was conducted to determine actual shopping…behavior of consumers who purchased raw poultry products.” What did they find? “Neither hand sanitizer nor wipes were observed in 71% of grocery store meat sections of stores visited.” And, even when they were there, “only one participant [out of the 96 they followed] used it. Therefore, [it’s] important to educate shoppers on the importance of using hand sanitizers in the meat section after touching poultry packages,” because food poisoning bacteria can get on the outside of the package. Plastic bags were available in most meat sections, “but only [a quarter] of the shoppers used the bags for their raw poultry purchases.” “The shoppers [just usually] placed the poultry directly in the main basket of the grocery cart,” where it could come in direct contact with fresh produce that may be eaten raw in a salad or something.

Then, where do their hands go? They didn’t use any kind of sanitizer, and they then grabbed the handle of the cart. “Because [they’re] not practicing good hand hygiene when handling poultry in the grocery store meat section, they could contaminate a variety of items as a result of contact with their hands.” “Touching the cart after directly handling the poultry packages could mean that the cart becomes a risk factor for Salmonella or Campylobacter” for the next person. The bacteria potentially left on the cart could affect other shoppers, not just the person [picking up the poultry].” So, some kale shopper “following [all] the safety precautions [can come along and” still be exposed to poultry contaminates via the cart.”

In addition to touching the cart, poultry shoppers may also touch “a personal item…after touching [a] raw poultry [package].” A personal item like their children. After touching poultry packages, 31% of shoppers touched a personal item, like their purse or their child.

Most “left the store with poultry [separated] in its own bag; however, most consumers [then] took it out of this protective layer” when they got home. And, one in three placed the package “directly on the counter” before it went into the fridge. And, most were just put straight in, where it could potentially come into contact with other items. Fewer than one in five “consumers correctly stored raw poultry…on the bottom shelf…in a sealed container or plastic bag.” Always on the bottom, since if the raw juices leak, they could contaminate other foods.

The next mistake most people make is then “washing or rinsing raw poultry before cooking it.” Up to 90% of people say they “wash their chicken before cooking it,” because that’s what they’re used to, and they want to “rinse the slime off.” The problem is that the slime can be splashed throughout, like a two-foot halo of contamination around the sink. A lot of folks heard you weren’t supposed to do that, but they continue to do it anyway.

Fewer than about one in ten thaw frozen poultry the way they should, in a sealed container or plastic bag, submerged in cold water, with the water changed every 30 minutes.

Is it better to put raw poultry on a wood cutting board or a plastic cutting board? Neither is safe, as they both get rapidly contaminated.

“Failure to [then] use a food thermometer is a[nother] potentially unsafe practice, given that 70% of chicken pieces that were judged by consumers as “done” had not reached safe internal cooking temperatures.” In focus groups, “many participants thought food thermometers were unnecessary to determine whether meat and poultry were ‘cooked thoroughly,’ because they had been ‘cooking for years without once getting food poisoning.’

But, had they ever gotten a 24-hour flu? There’s no such thing as a 24-hour flu. That’s likely food poisoning. Stomach bug or stomach flu—that’s likely food poisoning. Ever have a urinary tract infection? There are multiple lines of evidence “indicating poultry as a major food animal reservoir for urinary tract infection” bacteria that lie in wait in the rectum, and then crawl up. There are more than a million foodborne Salmonella and Campylobacter infections each year in the United States. “Although half of Americans think it is ‘not very common’ for people in the United States to get foodborne illness because of the way food is prepared in their home, food safety experts estimate that the home is the primary location where foodborne disease outbreaks occur.”

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image credit: USDA via Flickr. Image has been modified.

Motion graphics by Avocado Video.

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

In 2017, a study of more than a thousand food-poisoning outbreaks determined that poultry, specifically chicken, was the most common culprit, highlighting “the role of poultry as a major source of foodborne outbreaks in the United States.” Fish was second; beef was third. But, aren’t people more likely to order their burgers rarer than their chicken sandwiches? The biggest problem isn’t the cooking, but the handling—both at home and in the store.

“A…shop-along study…was conducted to determine actual shopping…behavior of consumers who purchased raw poultry products.” What did they find? “Neither hand sanitizer nor wipes were observed in 71% of grocery store meat sections of stores visited.” And, even when they were there, “only one participant [out of the 96 they followed] used it. Therefore, [it’s] important to educate shoppers on the importance of using hand sanitizers in the meat section after touching poultry packages,” because food poisoning bacteria can get on the outside of the package. Plastic bags were available in most meat sections, “but only [a quarter] of the shoppers used the bags for their raw poultry purchases.” “The shoppers [just usually] placed the poultry directly in the main basket of the grocery cart,” where it could come in direct contact with fresh produce that may be eaten raw in a salad or something.

Then, where do their hands go? They didn’t use any kind of sanitizer, and they then grabbed the handle of the cart. “Because [they’re] not practicing good hand hygiene when handling poultry in the grocery store meat section, they could contaminate a variety of items as a result of contact with their hands.” “Touching the cart after directly handling the poultry packages could mean that the cart becomes a risk factor for Salmonella or Campylobacter” for the next person. The bacteria potentially left on the cart could affect other shoppers, not just the person [picking up the poultry].” So, some kale shopper “following [all] the safety precautions [can come along and” still be exposed to poultry contaminates via the cart.”

In addition to touching the cart, poultry shoppers may also touch “a personal item…after touching [a] raw poultry [package].” A personal item like their children. After touching poultry packages, 31% of shoppers touched a personal item, like their purse or their child.

Most “left the store with poultry [separated] in its own bag; however, most consumers [then] took it out of this protective layer” when they got home. And, one in three placed the package “directly on the counter” before it went into the fridge. And, most were just put straight in, where it could potentially come into contact with other items. Fewer than one in five “consumers correctly stored raw poultry…on the bottom shelf…in a sealed container or plastic bag.” Always on the bottom, since if the raw juices leak, they could contaminate other foods.

The next mistake most people make is then “washing or rinsing raw poultry before cooking it.” Up to 90% of people say they “wash their chicken before cooking it,” because that’s what they’re used to, and they want to “rinse the slime off.” The problem is that the slime can be splashed throughout, like a two-foot halo of contamination around the sink. A lot of folks heard you weren’t supposed to do that, but they continue to do it anyway.

Fewer than about one in ten thaw frozen poultry the way they should, in a sealed container or plastic bag, submerged in cold water, with the water changed every 30 minutes.

Is it better to put raw poultry on a wood cutting board or a plastic cutting board? Neither is safe, as they both get rapidly contaminated.

“Failure to [then] use a food thermometer is a[nother] potentially unsafe practice, given that 70% of chicken pieces that were judged by consumers as “done” had not reached safe internal cooking temperatures.” In focus groups, “many participants thought food thermometers were unnecessary to determine whether meat and poultry were ‘cooked thoroughly,’ because they had been ‘cooking for years without once getting food poisoning.’

But, had they ever gotten a 24-hour flu? There’s no such thing as a 24-hour flu. That’s likely food poisoning. Stomach bug or stomach flu—that’s likely food poisoning. Ever have a urinary tract infection? There are multiple lines of evidence “indicating poultry as a major food animal reservoir for urinary tract infection” bacteria that lie in wait in the rectum, and then crawl up. There are more than a million foodborne Salmonella and Campylobacter infections each year in the United States. “Although half of Americans think it is ‘not very common’ for people in the United States to get foodborne illness because of the way food is prepared in their home, food safety experts estimate that the home is the primary location where foodborne disease outbreaks occur.”

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image credit: USDA via Flickr. Image has been modified.

Motion graphics by Avocado Video.

Doctor's Note

What about organic chicken? See Superbugs in Conventional vs. Organic Chicken. You may also be interested in Urinary Tract Infections from Eating Chicken.

 

Chicken infections can be particularly concerning because of the antibiotics they use in production and because of some of the specific pathogens involved. Learn more by watching my videos Past the Age of Miracles: Facing a Post-Antibiotic Age and Avoiding Chicken to Avoid Bladder Infections.

 

What about food poisoning from plant foods? See Norovirus Food Poisoning from Pesticides.

 

Some cooking methods may increase the risk of other diseases. Check out, for example, How to Reduce Cholesterol Oxidation.

 

To learn more about the role of poultry in past and future pandemics, see my videos How to Prevent the Next Pandemic and The COVID-19 Pandemic May Just Be a Dress Rehearsal.

 

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