Maintaining hygiene in the kitchen is essential to avoid food poisoning that can endanger health. The Spanish Agency for Food Safety and Nutrition (Aecosan) recommends cooking raw food well, since it may contain bacteria or other pathogenic microorganisms. In the event that they are going to be consumed raw, the recommendation is to wash them properly.
It is worth remembering that washing is not convenient for all foods. This is the case of meat, and especially chicken, even though we tend to think that it is convenient to wash it to leave it clean. Guadalupe Blay, head of the Endocrinology and Nutrition Working Group of the Spanish Society of General and Family Physicians (SEMG), explains to CuídatePlus that the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) warns that "washing chicken before cooking increases the risk of spreading Campylobacter bacteria to hands, work surfaces, clothing, and kitchen utensils through splashing water droplets."
It should not be forgotten that the most common food poisoning in Europe is precisely that caused by Campylobacter. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, this bacterium is one of the four main global causes of diarrheal disease and is considered the most frequent bacterial cause of gastroenteritis in the world. The main symptoms of Campylobacter infection, with an average duration of 3 to 6 days. are:
Severe symptoms may be more common in the elderly, pregnant women, children, or immunocompromised patients.
Not resounding to wash the chicken
Since this controversy, about whether or not it is convenient to wash the chicken before cooking it, arises every few years, Irene Gonzalo Montesinos, deputy of the Endocrinology and Nutrition Section of the University Hospital of Fuenlabrada, recalls the latest warning from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC, for its acronym in English) Americans in 2019: “They advocate a resounding no to the practice of washing chicken.” In fact, it is not just a question of not washing the chicken, but of not proceeding in this way with other birds, such as turkey or quail, since the bacteria lodge in the intestine of these animals.
In addition, since the bacteria spread to other places in the kitchen, such as the sink, washing it does not guarantee the disappearance of the pathogen, which can contaminate other raw foods that we wash in it.
You don't have to wash the eggs either.
The CDC also does not advise washing eggs. In this case, Gonzalo explains that the shell of the eggs is porous, so washing them facilitates the entry of pathogens into their interior. "The eggs should be cleaned with kitchen paper and break the shell of each one separately, taking care that it does not come into contact with the white and the yolk."
Five steps to avoid foodborne illness
How to eliminate these bacteria? The most effective way to do it is to cook the poultry meat well, "which should never be eaten raw," says Gonzalo. But in addition, to avoid this food poisoning and other contaminations, Aecosan, following a WHO document, recommends five keys for food safety: