Cleanliness is next to godliness, states the proverb - but there are exceptions.

Washing may not always be the best thing to do, especially where raw poultry is concerned.

Don’t wash your chicken

“Don’t wash your chicken” will be the rallying call during the U.K.’s Food Safety Week, which will be held in mid-June. Poultry meat will be the star of the event, with the “twisted bacteria,” Campylobacter, being the villain. Campylobacter, the most common cause of food poisoning in the U.K., is thought to be responsible for 110 deaths in the country each year, 22,000 hospitalizations, and around 460,000 cases of food poisoning.

The weeklong campaign will offer a number of tips on what consumers can do to protect themselves and their family from food poisoning in the home, particularly when handling chicken. Organizer the Food Standards Agency (FSA) is producing a range of materials that may well be just as useful outside the U.K. as they are in it, so a quick visit to their website probably would do no harm. 

Old habits die hard

Research has found that many U.K. consumers still wash raw poultry - something the FSA advises against. A 2012 survey found that almost 40 percent of respondents always washed raw poultry, while almost 60 percent said that they washed raw poultry at least some of the time.

As part of a countrywide campaign, a communications kit to support local community activities will be made available to local authorities and other partners, and this will include printed resources, social media suggestions and a template for a press release.

A leaflet and poster titled “Don’t Wash Raw Chicken” has been available since late February, and various booklets will be available soon.

Campylobacter is the focus of a number of industry initiatives in the U.K., where 27 percent of poultry flocks are categorized in the highest level for contamination. The poultry sector is working to reduce this to 10 percent by 2015.