Chicken is safe to consume if properly handled and cooked to a safe temperature
WASHINGTON, Oct. 8, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The National Chicken Council (NCC) and the Partnership for Food Safety Education are taking steps to remind consumers to properly handle and cook raw poultry in a manner to prevent undercooking and to prevent the possibility of bacteria spreading to other foods and food contact surfaces in the kitchen.
"It is always important to consistently follow safe food handling and cooking practices because all raw agricultural products – whether its produce, fruit, meat or poultry – could contain naturally occurring bacteria that might make someone sick," said NCC spokesman Tom Super. "But, there are steps people can take in the home to significantly reduce their risk."
NCC and the Partnership are reminding consumers following a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) alert regarding an increased incidence of Salmonella Heidelberg infection, mostly in California, that was caused by eating undercooked or improperly handled raw chicken, spanning a nine month timeframe. There is no recall in effect and fully cooked chicken represents no risk.
It is important to note the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), an agency of USDA, has been continuing its regular meat and poultry inspection services despite the government shutdown because it is considered an essential service. As a result, in-plant oversight of food safety, application of proper product labels and humane slaughter are continuing normally.
"Chicken is the leanest, most versatile and most affordable protein out there," Super added. "Consumers count on chicken for these reasons and it's important to note that given average consumption data, the vast majority of consumers are enjoying safe, wholesome chicken every time."
The four Fight BAC! practices of Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill can serve as reminders to always handle and cook poultry, and all foods, safely to reduce the risk of illness to you and your family:
Wash hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food and after using the bathroom, changing diapers and handling pets.
Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and counter tops with hot soapy water after preparing each food item and before you go on to the next food.
Avoid cross-contaminating other foods. Separate raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs from other foods in your grocery shopping cart, grocery bags, your kitchen and in your refrigerator.
Use one cutting board for fresh produce and a separate one for raw meat, poultry and seafood.
Do not rinse raw poultry in your sink – it will not remove bacteria. In fact, it can spread raw juices around your sink, onto your countertops or onto ready-to-eat foods. Bacteria in raw meat and poultry can only be killed when cooked to a safe internal temperature.
Cook poultry thoroughly. Poultry products, including ground poultry, should always be cooked to 165 °F internal temperature as measured with a food thermometer; leftovers should be refrigerated no more than two hours after cooking.
The color of cooked poultry is not a sure sign of its safety. Only by using a food thermometer can one accurately determine that poultry has reached a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F throughout the product. Be particularly careful with foods prepared for infants, older adults and persons with impaired immune systems.
Make poultry products the last items you select at the store. Once home, the products must be refrigerated or frozen promptly.
After cooking, refrigerate any uneaten poultry within two hours. Leftovers will remain safe to eat for two-three days.
Refrigerators should be set to maintain a temperature of 40 °F or below.
Thaw frozen poultry in the refrigerator — not on the countertop — or in cold water.
When barbecuing poultry outdoors, keep refrigerated until ready to cook. Do not place cooked poultry on the same plate used to transport raw poultry to the grill.
Always marinate poultry in the refrigerator, up to two days. Marinade in which raw poultry has been soaking should never be used on cooked poultry, unless it is boiled first.
Consumers with food safety questions can "Ask Karen," the FSIS virtual representative available 24 hours a day at AskKaren.gov. The toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline (1-888-674-6854) is available in English and Spanish and can be reached from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET on weekdays. Consumers can download free food safety information from the Partnership's website at www.fightbac.org.
The National Chicken Council is the national trade association representing vertically integrated chicken producers and processors, who raise and process 95 percent of the chicken in the United States.
The non-profit Partnership for Food Safety Education delivers trusted, science-based behavioral health messaging and a network of resources that support consumers in their efforts to reduce risk of foodborne infection.