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Washing raw chicken before cooking it seems like common sense to most people. Everybody knows that raw chicken contains bacteria that can be harmful to us. So why not be extra careful and rinse your chicken off before cooking it?

Well, according to the Food Standards Agency, washing your chicken may contribute to the spread of these harmful bacteria rather than the disinfection of them.

Here is a breakdown of why washing raw chicken can be harmful to your health and how you can still enjoy chicken while avoiding all of those nasty bacteria.

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Why you Shouldn’t Wash Raw Chicken

Raw chicken is full of bacteria that can cause people to become seriously ill or even worse. According to the CDC, two of the most common causes of food poisoning in North America come from campylobacter and salmonella, two different types of bacteria that can be found in uncooked chicken.

Salmonella is a group of bacteria that is commonly found in the intestines of birds. People who eat food contaminated with salmonella develop symptoms such as diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting. Most people who become sick from salmonella exposure recover after a few days, however some people develop more serious illnesses and sometimes die due to them. An example of one of these illnesses is septicemia, otherwise known as blood poisoning.

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Campylobacter is the leading cause of diarrheal illness in the United States. This illness can last for up to 10 days and causes extreme abdominal pain. Certain long-term effects from exposure to campylobacter have also been reported including arthritis and the development of a rare disease called Guillan-Barre syndrome. Guillan-Barre syndrome causes muscle weakness and affects the nervous system, and roughly 40% of Guillan-Barre syndrome cases in the United States are attributed to exposure to campylobacter.

According to the Food Standards Agency, campylobacter cannot be “cleansed” through the use of water alone. In fact, washing uncooked chicken that contains this bacteria can majorly contribute to it’s spread through water particles. This means that if you wash an infected piece of chicken, you not only have to worry about the area that your chicken comes in contact with but also the area that the water you used comes in contact with. This can lead to your kitchen becoming a minefield of harmful bacteria.

How to Avoid Food Poisoning

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According to the Food Standards Agency, the best way to ensure that all of the harmful bacteria in your chicken is killed off is to cook it as thoroughly as possible and to ensure you have a clean, designated food prep area that is sanitized before and after prep.

Make sure the chicken is steaming hot all the way through before you serve it. Cut into the thickest part of the meat and check that it is steaming hot with no pink meat and make sure that all of the juices run clear.

Also, be sure to store your chicken at a temperature below 4 degrees Celsius, as storing it at a higher temperature can allow the chicken to become a breeding ground for bacteria.

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