Why do we do it? My mother did it that’s why.
Washing chicken before you cook it seems logical…we wash our hands and our fruits and vegetables, so why not chicken? Campylobacter is why not.
No, it’s not a newly-discovered dinosaur, it’s a very serious strain of food poisoning that is caused by bacteria living in raw poultry 80 percent of the time.
By washing chicken and other poultry before cooking, the bacteria causing the contamination are spread everywhere the water droplets go: on the counter, in the sink, on the floor, sprayed on adjacent cooking utensils—everywhere.
The United Kingdom’s Food Standards Agency issued a bulletin urging cooks not to wash raw chicken. Campylobacter is a lesser-known type of food poisoning but it is just as dangerous as the more infamous E. coli and salmonella.
It can cause the expected vomiting, diarrhea, and gastrointestinal distress of other types of food poisoning but there have been cases of reactive arthritis, nervous system failure, and even death. An estimated 1.3 million cases of campylobacter poisoning occurs in the US every year.
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This Warning Isn’t Limited to Just Chicken.
The United States Department of Agriculture advises not to wash any raw meat.
Cooking meats thoroughly will kill any bacteria that may have been present when raw. That’s not to say you shouldn’t wash your hands and preparation surface both before and after handling raw meat—those are still a necessary practice for safe food handling.