Should You Wash Raw Chicken? The CDC Has Issued An Important Food Safety Notice

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Sanitary meal prep is a top concern for many parents, which probably is one reason why the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC) issued a safety notice on Friday, April 26 regarding the topic of washing raw chicken before cooking. Although this is standard practice for many people, the CDC stated that washing uncooked chicken can cause the spread of germs.

The CDC regularly issues hot tips via its Twitter account fairly regularly, as was the case on Friday when it sent out a message about washing uncooked chicken. The practice, which might seem like common sense to some people (we're supposed to wash our fruit and veggies before eating, right?), is actually a big no no, according to the CDC.

"Don’t wash your raw chicken!" the CDC's message read. "Washing can spread germs from the chicken to other food or utensils in the kitchen."

Here's the thought process behind this warning: If you wash your uncooked chicken in the sink, those germs could be deposited into your sink. Since many busy families probably don't deep clean their sinks on the regular, this practice could possibly lead to contamination of other household items.

Despite the logic behind the well-intentioned warning, some people are sticking to washing uncooked chicken, and they want the CDC to know it.

"nah imma wash my raw chicken," one person tweeted.

Someone else said: "I'll keep washing mine, thank you. And washing my hands and sink."

"Yeah ... I will pass on that advice and clean my sink," one person commented.

The backlash prompted the CDC to issue a follow up message, writing: “We didn’t mean to get you all hot about not washing your chicken! But it’s true: kill germs by cooking chicken thoroughly, not washing it. You shouldn’t wash any poultry, meat, or eggs before cooking. They can all spread germs around your kitchen. Don’t wing food safety!”

A+ plus for the pun, CDC.

It's true that heat plays a big role in getting rid of germs. "Many germs fall apart when they are too hot, and perhaps more so when they are too hot and wet," The Department of Physics University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign states on its website.

It adds, "Boiling water kills most germs in it and makes it much safer. Cooking food also kills the germs in it. Canned food is usually prepared at high temperature to make sure that live germs are not left to multiply in the can while it sits on a shelf for months or years."

Of course, there are other ways to kill germs, like ultraviolet light and household cleaners, for instance.

But when it comes to cooking raw chicken, the longstanding advice from food safety organizations is to forgo washing entirely. To effectively kill bacteria, the CDC recommends cooking your poultry at 165 Fahrenheit, according to NPR.

If you're committed to washing your chicken in the sink (old habits die hard for some people), you need to disinfect and clean your cooking area ASAP. From homemade bleach sanitizer to hot water and soap, it's very important to clean your kitchen to avoid spreading germs. If you don't wash your chicken in the sink, you'll get to avoid this extra work.

Other tips for safely cooking chicken includes, but is not limited to, according to The Spruce:

  • Avoiding cross-contamination (dicing carrots on a cutting board that you just used to chop up chicken)
  • Make sure your chicken is fully cooked (there are different temperatures for each type of chicken — legs and thighs require a different cooking time than drumsticks, for instance)
  • Don't defrost your chicken in the microwave to avoid bacteria growth (defrost in the refrigerator)

Tips aside, there's a good chance this debate about washing uncooked chicken won't die down anytime soon. Although each person is entitled to their opinion, it's probably a good idea to listen to the CDC and other trusted health organizations regarding your meal prep decisions.