Newsbite: Debunking the “Raw Chicken” Craze

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Some raw foods taste great and are good for you from a nutrition and food safety perspective. But from a food safety position, you should skip food fads that can put your health at risk—like eating raw chicken. Yes, eating raw chicken is trending. We thought we would set the record straight and inject some food safety and foodborne illness insights. Additionally, check out this recent HealthLine article where we were able to provide some tips that can help protect you against foodborne illness.

Raw Chicken Can Sicken

Eating raw or undercooked poultry (and meat) can lead to foodborne illness—which can be very serious in some cases and should not be taken lightly. In 2015, the World Health Organization noted, “an estimated 600 million – almost 1 in 10 people in the world – fall ill after eating contaminated food and 420,000 die every year….” Avoiding foodborne illness is especially important for more susceptible populations like the elderly, children, pregnant women and people with autoimmune diseases.

Foodborne illness from raw chicken can be caused by Campylobacter, Clostridium perfringens, Listeria monocytogenes and Salmonella. Symptoms of foodborne illness can vary from person to person but are usually associated with nausea, stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting (and dehydration in many cases). Also, long-term illnesses can occur from bacterial infections.

Handle that Bird Right

Chicken in our food supply is a safe and great source of protein and other nutrients. But to get the full nutritional benefits, chicken needs to be properly stored and cooked. This is why it is important to follow all safe-food handling practices when preparing and eating chicken. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service’s “How Temperatures Affect Foods” Fact Sheet provides a nice overview of how to cook, store and reheat meat. It also demonstrates that cooking meat is not a “one temperature fits all”; it depends on the type of meat being cooked. For example, minimum safe internal temperatures for specific foods are:

  • Steak: 145 °F
  • Fish: 145 °F
  • Ground Beef (e.g., hamburger): 160 °F
  • Chicken Breasts: 165°F
  • Pork: 145 °F

Eating Out Safety Savvy

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Code, any eggs, meat or seafood that are served raw at a restaurant must come with a warning somewhere on the menu. Eating raw meat (of any kind) does present some risk for foodborne illness—even sushi. When a restaurant serves raw seafood, it is required by the FDA to freeze any fish intended to be consumed raw at -4°F or below for a minimum of seven days. This freezing process kills bacteria you might find in raw seafood. However, the FDA warns “… Freezing doesn’t kill all harmful microorganisms. That’s why the safest route is to cook your seafood.”

Some food fads should be fought – we think this is one of them. While our food supply is one of the safest and most reliable in the world, as consumers, we still need to be diligent in practicing food safety at home and while eating out.