Are you still washing raw poultry meat at home?

96% of participants in a survey of Southeast Asian consumers reported washing chicken meat at home, saying it makes them feel safer.

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The first empirical findings of consumers’ raw poultry washing habits in eight southeast Asian countries make for worrying reading.

The study, published in the journal Food Control, found that most participants washed raw chicken before cooking. The practice, the study’s authors said, had been learned at home and is heavily entrenched in local cultures.

Participants in the study reported that the act of washing raw chicken made them feel safe and they cited the need to remove dirt, slime, blood and feathers from carcasses.

There remains a local preference for freshly slaughtered poultry, and a lack of cleanliness where traditional markets and other sellers are concerned, hence consumers feeling the need to wash their purchases. Those consumers that purchased raw chicken from supermarkets, however, were more confident about not washing it.

Unsurprisingly, the researchers found various cross contamination pathways, including lack of hand hygiene practices, inadequate cleaning and sanitation procedures, and cross contamination of raw poultry and wash water to surrounding areas.

A growing problem?

Southeast Asia is one of the regions in the world with the highest foodborne disease burdens, affecting between 690 and 710 Disability Adjusted Life Years per 100,000 population, or put more simply, lost years of healthy life.

Without intervention and education, the situation can only be expected to worsen, due to the region being one of the areas where poultry meat consumption is expected to rise significantly over coming years.

While raw chicken washing was found to vary depending on age, income level and marital status, 96% of participants in the survey reported that they washed raw poultry at home.

The region, however, is not alone in its raw chicken washing habits. A recent study found that 73% of U.S. consumers reported washing raw chicken prior to cooking, while 64% of Canadians surveyed reported doing the same.

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