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Health: Chicken’s Hidden Danger

stephanie-web Stephanie Stahl
Stephanie Stahl, CBS 3 and The CW Philly 57’s Emmy Award-win...
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By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Chicken’s hidden danger.  Everyone knows you have to cook it properly.  Experts say another danger is what happens before you a cook it.  3 On Your Side testing uncovered the danger you can’t see.  Health Reporter Stephanie Stahl shows you the results.

It’s a food poisoning crime scene.  Bacteria from a chicken can easily spread in your kitchen.  It’s the dark side of an American favorite.

Fried, roasted, or grilled, chicken is a popular dish.

No matter how you cook it, washing it is usually what happens first.  About 90 percent of Americans wash chicken before cooking it.

Every year over two million people get food poisoning from salmonella and other bacterial infections that can be deadly.

The latest salmonella outbreak is linked to chicken from California’s Foster Farms, which has sickened more than 350 people including someone from Delaware.

Drexel University researchers did a study that showed washing raw chicken doesn’t get rid of the bacteria.  It actually just spreads it.

“In the literature they call it aerosolization.  You’ve got this tiny spray, this microscopic spray, that is splashing back,” said Jennifer Quinlan, a food research at Drexel.  She helped develop a new campaign called “Don’t Wash Your Chicken.”

“Once you start to introduce water, you start to give that bacteria the chance to mobilize.  They can’t fly.  They can’t jump, but once you give them water they can start to move around in the kitchen environment,” said Quinlan.

A germ vision animation, from New Mexico State University, demonstrates how bacteria from raw chicken easily spreads in and around the sink, onto things like clean dishes, making it easier to ingest.

“Salmonella is everywhere in the chicken, even inside the chicken,” said Cathy Davies, in the Food Science Department at Delaware Valley College.  She helped us test what happens when a chicken is washed.  She uses a substance called Glo Germ to trace where bacteria spreads.  We have a roaster covered with Glo Germ that we rinse off in a sink.

“After you wash a chicken the sink and counter might look clean, but wait until you see what happens when the lights go off,” said Stahl.

A black light illuminates the Glo Germ.  It’s everywhere.  There are orange dots around the sink, on the faucet and handles, and around the counter, and that’s not all.

“My hands are a mess, but it even went up my arm.  So even if I took my gloves off, I’m going to be spreading bacteria,” said Cathy.

There are many places salmonella could be lurking, that you can’t see to clean up.  Bacteria that can be dangerous to your health.

“It can spread far, and it doesn’t take much to be in there to make you sick,” said Quinlan.

Salmonella is commonly found on many different types of poultry, not just chicken.  Cooking it to an internal temperature of 165 degrees is the only way to kill the bacteria, and thoroughly washing counters with hot soapy water or a disinfectant.

Drexel Don’t Wash Your Chicken Campaign Information- http://drexel.edu/dontwashyourchicken/

Salmonella & Chicken Information- http://www.cdc.gov/features/salmonellachicken/