University of Maryland Extension

Do You Wash Your Chicken?

Do You Wash Your Chicken?
Image Credit: 
Scott Martin

Do You Wash Your Chicken? Baltimore Co. FCS educator’s Graduate Research Goes Global, Follow Her on Twitter @FoodSmartUME

FCS educator, Dr. Shauna Henley, started working with UME in January 2014, after finishing her doctorate at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA.  Her “Big claim to fame” might be her doctoral research that included the food safety educational materials called “Don’t Wash Your Chicken!” These materials that her advisor, Dr. Jennifer Quinlan, and New Mexico State University’s Media Productions team under, Jeanne Gleason, EdD went viral after its initial press release in August 2013.  “Germ-Vision” is an animated cartoon that illustrates the cross-contamination of bacteria (or germs) that can spray around your kitchen sink, during chicken washing (in addition to YouTube mini-dramas, cooking demonstrations, and 4-photonovellas).

If you ask Dr. Henley if she thought her PhD research would go viral, her answer would be “no, she didn’t realize it (chicken washing) was a thing.  The FDA, USDA, and other food safety agencies around the world also recommend that consumer not wash or soak raw poultry, beef, pork, lamb, veal, or eggs.”  

This past June, “Don’t Wash Your Chicken!” won a couple of awards at the Association of Communications Excellence conference in Portland, Oregon.  The Food Standards Agency and Safefood Organization in the United Kingdom, recently concluded their Food Safety Week 2014 (June 16-22), running a spin-off called “Don’t wash raw chicken.”  However, the message of “Don’t Wash Your Chicken!” has been seen and heard by people in Asia, Central America, Australia, and New Zealand.  

Dr. Henley realizes that people wash chicken for many reasons, family tradition and religion being commonly cited by consumers.  Shauna says “we live in a world where we are told to wash our hands, wash our fruit, and wash our vegetables; so we may be in the mindset that washing raw poultry follows suit.” Research has shown that washing does allow for bacterial spray (cross-contamination), and does not remove all bacteria on the chicken surface.  Cooking raw poultry to an internal minimal temperature of 165F, using a food thermometer is the best way to reduce and kill any bacteria that may be on the surface or internalized in the muscle tissue.  Shauna feels that regardless of a consumer’s willingness to comply with not washing raw poultry, it allows consumers to make an informed decision to wash or not to wash-that is the question.

Follow UME’s Dr. Henley on Twitter @FoodSmartUME for food safety, nutrition, and physical activity news and tips.  She hopes to better connect with her Northern Maryland Cluster (Baltimore Co, Baltimore City, Carroll and Harford Counties) and anyone else!

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