What causes Campylobacter in chicken?

Thanks to decades of consumer safety and education campaigns, a significant percentage of Americans are now aware of Salmonella and the infection that humans contract by ingesting it. Less known, but actually more common, is Campylobacterwhich, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), affects approximately 1.5 million Americans every year.

Let’s take a closer look at this bacteria, the disease it causes, and the preventive measures you can take at the grocery store and at home.

What is Campylobacter infection?

Avoid cross contamination from other foods. Separate raw chicken from other foods in your grocery cart, grocery bags, kitchen, and refrigerator. Use one cutting board for fresh produce and another for raw meat, poultry and seafood.

Don’t rinse raw poultry in your sink; it won’t kill bacteria, and in fact, it can spill raw juices around your sink, on your counters, or on ready-to-eat foods. Bacteria in raw meat and poultry can only be killed when cooked to a safe internal temperature of 165.

Make raw chicken or meat products the last items you select at the store. Once at home, produce should be refrigerated or frozen quickly. Freeze raw chicken if not to be used within 2 days. If properly wrapped, chicken can stay frozen for up to a year. After cooking, refrigerate any uneaten chicken within 2 hours. Leftovers will remain safe to eat for 2-3 days.

Refrigerators should be set to maintain a temperature of 40°F or lower. Thaw frozen chicken in the refrigerator (not on the counter) or in cold water. To speed up the process, the chicken can be thawed in the microwave. The schedule will vary. When marinating, prepare a separate batch of marinade to serve with the cooked chicken and discard anything that was used on the raw chicken.

When barbecuing chicken outdoors, keep it refrigerated until ready to cook. Do not place cooked chicken on the same plate used to transport raw chicken to the grill.

Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling raw chicken and after using the bathroom, changing diapers and handling pets. Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils and countertops with hot, soapy water after preparing each food and before moving on to the next food.

Cook the chicken well. All poultry products, including ground poultry, should always be cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F, measured with a food thermometer; leftovers should be refrigerated no more than two hours after cooking. Be aware that the color of cooked poultry is not a sure sign of its safety. Only by using a food thermometer can it be accurately determined that the poultry has reached a safe minimum internal temperature of 165°F throughout the product. Be especially careful with foods prepared for infants, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems. When reheating leftovers, cover to retain moisture and ensure chicken is heated through. Bring sauces to a boil before serving.

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