Washing raw poultry increases cross-contamination

Campylobacter jejuni is an important human pathogen commonly associated with raw poultry. The risk of cross-contamination in the kitchen is escalated with washing raw poultry in the sink- an unnecessary measure for food safety. Cook the bird to an internal temperature of 74°C (165°F), no need for washing.

Holly Van Hare of The Daily Meal reports:

You’re spraying your sink with salmonella
Washing your fruit? Absolutely. Washing your lettuce? Necessity. But running warm water over a slimy slab of raw chicken is just about the worst thing you can do with your kitchen sink.
In fact, it’s such a bad idea that the National Health Service (NHS) in Britain issued a public warning against the “sanitary” practice — claiming that “it can increase your risk of food poisoning from campylobacter bacteria.”
Chicken is one of the most commonly infected raw foods when it comes to foodborne bacteria such as salmonella. These bacteria lurk both on the surface and insides of the raw meat, growing indefinitely until you cook them dead. “Only a few campylobacter cells are needed to cause food poisoning,” the NHS says.
Washing the chicken involves running tap water over that infested piece of meat. The water becomes contaminated as soon as it hits the surface of your poultry, and proceeds to splash in every direction both inside and around your kitchen sink. “Water droplets can travel more than 50 centimeters in every direction,” the NHS warns, a distance that equates to over one and a half feet.
After that bacteria spreads, it’s hard to get rid of. The only real way to effectively kill the bacteria you’ve now sprinkled around your home is to disinfect everything — an onerous task you’re likely saving until after you’re done cooking. That means your risk of exposure is prolonged and the bacteria could even come into contact with your other food.
If you’re preparing chicken, skip the washing step. The oven kills everything, anyway — and once a chicken is properly cooked, it’s 100 percent free of disease-causing bacteria. If you’re bored with bland old chicken and looking to spice things up, here are 101 of our best recipes.

Relying on a friend

A new study from the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna has shown that Campylobacter jejuni is protected and dependent upon the presence of spoilage bacteria on meat, in particular Pseudomonas for survival.
It is known that C. jejuni cannot grow under normal atmospheric conditions – the levels of oxygen are too high for it – so how it survives was until recently unknown. The mystery has now been solved by Friederike Hilbert and colleagues at the Institute of Meat Hygiene, Meat Technology and Food Science of the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna.
The surface of meat harbours a number of species of bacteria that – fortunately – are rarely harmful to humans, although they are associated with spoilage. It seems possible that the various species interact and Hilbert hypothesized that such interactions might help bacteria such as Campylobacter jejuni survive under hostile, oxygen-rich conditions. She thus tested the survival of C. jejuni in the presence of various meat-spoiling bacteria. When incubated alone or together with bacteria such as Proteus mirabilis or Enterococcus faecalis, Campylobacter survived atmospheric oxygen levels for no longer than 18 hours. However, when incubated together with various strains of Pseudomonas, Campylobacter were found to survive for much longer, in some cases over 48 hours, which would be easily long enough to cause infection.
Campylobacter jejuni is a bacterium found primarily in the intestinal gut of animals and birds and shed primarily through the feces.  Poultry feces have been found to contain up to 106 cells or more per gram.  The infective dose for campylobacteriosis (disease acquired from the bacterium) can be as low as 500 cells. This makes it very easy for people to get sick from food contaminated with Campylobacter jejuni.  Symptoms commonly associated with campylobacteriosis are enteric in nature, that is abdominal cramps, diarrhea, in some cases bloody diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. Keep poop away from food.
 Friederike Hilbert, Manuela Scherwitzel, Peter Paulsen and Michael P. Szostak. Survival of Campylobacter jejuni under Conditions of Atmospheric Oxygen Tension with the Support of Pseudomonas spp.
September issue of the Journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology (Vol. 76, 5911-5917).

Mmmm, what’s that flavor, Campylobacter?


The Tomah Journal writes:

In most circumstances, the test of whether an activity should be illegal isn’t whether it creates harm, but whether the cost of eradicating the harm is exceeded by enforcement costs.

Many activities — drunk driving, manufacturing methamphetamine, hunting from the side of the road, dumping untreated sewage — are worth the cost of enforcement. But is selling raw milk? Two area lawmakers don’t think so, and they’re probably right.

State Rep. Chris Danou (D-Trempealeau) and state Sen. Pat Kreitlow (D-Chippewa Falls) have introduced legislation that would legalize on-farm sales of raw milk in Wisconsin. Critics claim that raw milk is unsafe, and that’s true in the narrowest literal sense. According to the federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 39 raw milk-related bacterial outbreaks in the United States between 1998 and 2005 sickened 831 people, hospitalized 66 and killed one. In Wisconsin, bacterial outbreaks linked to unpasteurized milk sickened 189 people and hospitalized three.

In the large scheme of things, however, those aren’t large numbers. Last year, 23 people died in Wisconsin snowmobile accidents, and nobody suggests banning snowmobiles.

The benefits of raw milk are economic. Raw milk has a passionate, if small, base of consumers who are willing to pay farmers top dollar. In a struggling economy when it’s difficult for dairy farmers to make ends meet, it’s an economic boost that can’t be easily dismissed.

Most Americans grew up with pasteurized milk, and in an easily grossed-out food culture like ours (how many of us eat beef tongue, sweetbreads or chicken gizzards?) the prospect of raw milk as a widely consumed commodity appears very slim. And there’s no doubt that if a consumer wants to follow a safety-first approach to food consumption, pasteurized milk is the logical option. But if consumers want to take a moderate risk and consume raw milk, it’s not worth the resources of the state to tell them they can’t. Wisconsin has bigger law enforcement problems than people who take their chances.

How many kids have to get sick and die from consuming unpasteurized milk? If the consumer wants to take the risk and consume such a product, fine, just don’t impose it on your kids and don’t say you weren’t informed.

            I remember quite fondly when I worked in the Provincial Lab in Alberta and was testing unpasteurized milk that had made a number people sick. I was shocked from the number of positive bacterial cultures, in particular, Campylobacter jejuni, a nasty foodborne pathogen.