A 'Real Housewife' commits a kitchen no-no

Question: What did cookbook author Teresa Giudice do wrong last week on The Real Housewives of New Jersey?

Answer: She washed a turkey in the sink.

That's a no-no, note the Kansas State University food safety experts who write barfblog and spotted the faux pas.

While water might wash some bacteria down the drain, it is far more likely to splash them - on the dish rack, on you, on other food - and raise the risk of cross-contamination. (Guidance to industry, which must follow very specific food-safety practices, may be different.) Thorough cooking will kill the microbes.

"Washing raw poultry, beef, pork, lamb or veal before cooking it is not recommended," according to the USDA fact sheet Washing Food: Does it Promote Food Safety? -- one of dozens of safe food handling fact sheets ranging from barbeque to bag school lunches to interpreting dates on packages. Questions may also be posed to the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline (1-888-674-6854 or mphotline.fsis@usda.gov).

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made the same point Tuesday while presenting an annual report card on salmonella (roughly steady for 15 years) and other food-borne diseases (down by about a quarter).

Hands, utensils and countertops that came in contact with raw meats and poultry should be washed with hot, soapy water; countertops can be further sanitized using 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water.

Fresh fruits and vegetables, on the other hand, should always be washed - before eating or preparing - under cold, running tap water (no soap!) to remove any lingering dirt.

Consumer guidelines for handling fish often say nothing about washing. But "the bottom line is that fish would be treated just like meat and poultry, with a recommendation not to wash," said Donald W. Schaffner, director of the Center for Advanced Food Technology at Rutgers University.


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