Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA FSIS) released its final report analyzing consumer handling of raw poultry.

USDA FSIS contracted with RTI International—a nonprofit organization that provides research and technical services—along with its subcontractor, North Carolina State University. The research involved meal preparation experiments to evaluate consumer food handling behaviors in a test kitchen. 

The entire research experiment will be conducted in five separate iterations. The meal preparation portion is part of a larger 5-year annual study that also includes focus groups (two iterations) and web surveys (two iterations). The report released today describes the results of the second iteration of the meal preparation experiment that examined consumers’ washing of poultry when preparing a meal of chicken thighs.

The observational study looked at behaviors in terms of poultry washing, handwashing, cleaning and sanitizing surfaces and equipment, cross-contamination and microbiological analysis, and thermometer use.

USDA says the results of the observational study showed how easily bacteria can be spread when surfaces are not effectively cleaned and sanitized. 

“Cooking and mealtime is a special occasion for all of us as we come together with our families and friends,” says Dr. Mindy Brashears, the USDA’s Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety. “However, the public health implications of these findings should be of concern to everyone. Even when consumers think they are effectively cleaning after washing poultry, this study shows that bacteria can easily spread to other surfaces and foods. The best practice is not to wash poultry.”

“Everyone has a role to play in preventing illness from food,” says Administrator Carmen Rottenberg of USDA FSIS. “Please keep in mind that children, older adults, and those with compromised immune systems are especially at risk. Washing or rinsing raw meat and poultry can increase your risk as bacteria spreads around your kitchen, but not washing your hands for 20 seconds immediately after handling those raw foods is just as dangerous.”

You can view USDA’s entire report and study results at