Chicken safe to eat but still needs careful handling

29 March, 2006. A new review of the chicken food chain on the island of Ireland reveals a highly regulated industry, adhering to rigorous international standards. However, consumers still need to ensure that chicken is cooked and handled properly to avoid foodborne illnesses.

The review- the first in a series – was undertaken by safefood, the Food Safety Promotion Board in response to consumers’ concerns about chicken.

Martin Higgins, Chief Executive, safefood explains: “Chicken is the main protein source for many consumers on the island of Ireland and in our research, over 40% of consumers indicated that chicken was the food they were most concerned about in terms of how it is produced, packaged, sold and handled at home. Given all these factors, chicken was the obvious place to begin our series of food chain reviews.”

The review concludes that, when handled properly, chicken is a safe and nutritious food. Given the possible presence of bacteria such as Campylobacter on raw chicken, consumers need to store and handle chicken appropriately and cook it thoroughly to avoid potential foodborne illness. Consumers are also advised not to rinse chicken or other poultry to avoid cross-contamination, to other foods and preparation surfaces.

While safefood highlights the vital role of the consumer in the food chain, it also calls on the industry to continue to make every effort to minimize the risk of bacteria such as Campylobacter, as well as to work with regulatory bodies to address this and other consumer concerns.

The review also found that more than 70% of the chicken meat used in the catering industry is sourced from outside the island of Ireland, or the European Union. According to safefood research, consumers regard country of origin as a key determinant in their purchase choice. Furthermore, safefood research found that consumers prefer chicken from the island of Ireland and would like to see information about the poultry producer clearly labelled.

“Currently, the labelling legislation does not apply to the catering stage of the food chain. Where country of origin is an important deciding factor for consumers, these findings further compound the need for a mechanism to communicate this information to consumers, allowing them to make better informed choices”, said Martin Higgins.

safefood’s review was undertaken in conjunction with an advisory group drawn from across the chicken industry and scientists across the island of Ireland. The final review document is now being circulated to all those involved in the industry.

Ends

Notes to editors

1. safefood advises consumers to take the following measures in the home when preparing or handling chicken:

  • chicken meat should not be washed
  • all utensils and surfaces that come into contact with raw chicken should be cleaned after use
  • hands should be washed thoroughly after handling raw poultry meat
  • chicken should be cooked thoroughly until it is piping hot all the way through, the meat is no longer pink and the juices run clear
  • raw chicken should be stored in the refrigerator at 5C or less
  • raw chicken should be covered when stored in the refrigerator on the bottom shelf to keep it away from ready-to-eat foods.
  • raw chicken should be placed in separate bags or containers during transport home from the retailer
  • leftover chicken should always be reheated until piping hot all the way through and should NEVER be reheated more than once
  • refrigerated leftover chicken should be eaten within three days

2. A summary of safefood’s review of the chicken food chain is attached.

For further information or to request an interview, please contact
Andrew Hyland / Niamh Burdett     
WHPR        
Tel: 01 6690030 / 087 9088 322 (Andrew) / 086 6086 764 (Niamh)