Research – An Observational Study of the Impact of a Food Safety Intervention on Consumer Poultry Washing

Journal of Food Protection

Campylobacter kswfoodworld

This study tested the effectiveness of an educational intervention on consumer poultry washing using video observation of meal preparation with participants who self-reported washing poultry. Treatment group participants received three emails containing messages the U.S. Department of Agriculture has used on social media (video and infographics) related to poultry preparation, including advising against washing it. Participants were observed cooking chicken thighs (inoculated with traceable nonpathogenic Escherichia coli strain DH-5 alpha) and preparing a salad to determine whether they washed the chicken and the extent of cross-contamination to the salad and areas of the kitchen. After meal preparation, participants responded to an interview about food handling behaviors, including questions about the intervention for treatment group participants. Three hundred people participated in the study (158 control, 142 treatment). The intervention effectively encouraged participants not to wash chicken before cooking; 93% of treatment group participants did not wash the chicken compared to 39% of control group participants (P<0.0001). High levels of the tracer detected in the sink and on the salad lettuce suggest that microbes transferred to the sink from the chicken, packaging, or contaminated hands are a larger cause for concern than splashing contaminated chicken fluids onto the counter. Among chicken washers, lettuce from the prepared salad was contaminated at 26% for the control group and 30% for the treatment group. For nonwashers, lettuce was contaminated at 31% for the control group and 15% for the treatment group. Hand-facilitated cross-contamination is suspected to be a factor in explaining this cross-contamination. This study demonstrates the need to change the frame of “don’t wash your poultry” messaging to instead focus on preventing contamination of sinks and continuing to emphasize the importance of handwashing and cleaning and sanitizing surfaces.

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