How to Handle Raw Poultry | Dr. Michael Greger |

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Poultry is the most common cause of serious food-poisoning outbreaks, followed by fish, then beef. But aren’t people more likely to order their burgers rarer than their chicken sandwiches? The primary location where outbreaks occur is the home, not restaurants.

In 2017, a study of more than a thousand food-poisoning outbreaks determined that poultry, specifically chicken, was the most common culprit, “highlight[ing] the role of poultry as a major source of foodborne outbreaks in the United States.” Fish was the second “most frequently reported food category,” and beef was third. But aren’t people more likely to order rare burgers than rare chicken sandwiches? Yes. The biggest problem with poultry isn’t “inadequate cooking,” but “food-handling errors,” both at home and in the grocery store.

As I discuss in my video How to Shop for, Handle, and Store Chicken, a “shop-along observational study was conducted to determine actual shopping, transportation, and storage behavior of consumers who purchase raw poultry products.” What did the researchers find? “Neither hand sanitizer nor wipes were observed in 71% of grocery store meat sections of stores visited.” Even when sanitizing products were available, only one participant out of the 96 they followed used them. Food-poisoning bacteria can get on the outside of packages, “therefore, it also is important to educate shoppers on the importance of using hand sanitizer in the meat section after touching poultry packages.” Plastic bags were available in most meat sections, “but only 25% of shoppers used the bag for their raw poultry purchases…The shoppers placed the poultry [directly] in the main basket of the grocery cart 84% of the time,” where it could come in direct contact with fresh produce that might then be eaten raw in a salad, for example.

After the shoppers put the poultry in the basket, where did their hands go? Without using any kind of sanitizer, most shoppers then grabbed the handle of the cart. “Because shoppers are not practicing good hand hygiene when handling poultry in the grocery store meat section, they could contaminate a variety of items as a result of contact with their hands. Contact with other products occurred frequently in the cart, which could result in cross-contamination. Touching the cart after directly handling the poultry packages could potentially mean that the cart is a risk factor for Salmonella or CampylobacterThe bacteria potentially left on the cart could affect other shoppers, not just the participant being observed.” So, some kale shopper following all the safety precautions can come along and still be exposed to poultry contamination via the grocery cart.

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