If you chose to wash it first — the wrong answer — you’re more likely to be an American than a Russian. And you’re even more likely to be from India or Colombia.
That’s a big assumption, but it’s based on data from a new survey that compared food safety practices and knowledge regarding raw poultry and shell eggs in 10 countries.
According to the survey, more than 40 percent of Americans in Missouri and Tennessee washed their raw chicken or turkey in the sink before cooking it. Washing poultry is a big food safety no-no because it splashes potential pathogens such as Salmonella and Campylobacter from the raw meat onto other surfaces — and all over your hands and arms.
Russians in Moscow, on the other hand, universally abstained from washing their raw poultry, while Indians and Colombians washed their poultry in even higher numbers than Americans.
This was one striking contrast out of many comparisons noted in a presentation Monday by Kansas State University nutrition professor Kadri Koppel, Ph.D., at the 2014 International Association for Food Protection (IAFP) conference in Indianapolis. And, to be clear, Koppel drew no assumptions from the data about which country’s citizens may or may not know more about food safety.
The survey provides a snapshot into cultural practices related to poultry and eggs around the world, and, by extension, the relative risks of contracting foodborne illness, although it did not aim to make any comprehensive statements. The survey included roughly 225 Americans, along with 100-200 refrigerator-owning citizens from another nine countries, also including Estonia, Italy, France, Argentina, South Korea and Thailand.
Numerous cultural considerations play into how people of various cultures handle their food. For example, while more than 80 percent of Russians wash their eggs, fewer than 5 percent of Americans do. Of course, Americans have come to expect that their store-bought eggs are already pre-washed and sterilized, which eliminates any need for egg-washing that might be a more serious consideration in Russia.
Some practices were more universal than others. For example, people almost always opted to wash their hands with soap and water after handling raw poultry, as opposed to just rinsing or wiping their hands. (Estonians and South Koreans, however, were about 50/50 on washing versus rinsing.)
More insight on poultry and egg handling practices in the U.S.
Another survey highlighted at the same symposium on consumer behavior toward raw poultry and eggs suggested that only about 31 percent of Americans know that they should not wash raw poultry.
That survey also found that roughly 90 percent of Americans wash their hands after handling raw poultry. The survey was answered by 1,500 American adults who were the primary grocery shoppers for their households, according to Sheryl Cates, senior research policy analyst at developmental research nonprofit RTI International.
When handling packages of raw poultry at the grocery store, 76 percent of respondents said they separate chicken parts from other items in the cart, while about 70 percent also keep packages of chicken parts separate from other food in grocery bags.
When refrigerating raw poultry, only 17 percent of respondents reported following guidelines that recommend storing it in sealed containers or wrapped in a bag on the bottom shelf of the fridge.
After preparing raw poultry on a cutting board, 94 percent of respondents said they washed the cutting board or used a different one. Ninety-eight percent reported using separate utensils or washing utensils after handling raw poultry.
Those same respondents appeared to take more risks when handling shell eggs.
While 86 percent of respondents said they open egg cartons at the store to check for cracks before making a purchase, only 48 percent reported washing their hands as recommended after handling eggs or cracking them open at home.
Only 47 percent of respondents fried eggs until the yolk was firm, as recommended for avoiding Salmonella contamination. During the past 12 months, four percent had eaten raw eggs, eight percent had eaten food made from raw eggs, and 25 percent had eaten raw cookie dough or batter containing raw eggs.
Overall, those statistics seemed to suggest that, at least when it comes to raw poultry and eggs, maybe we should consider acting a little more like Russians.© Food Safety News