Why do people still wash raw chicken? – Drexel News Blog


Washing raw poultry actually spreads harmful bacteria, like salmonella, to surfaces around the kitchen.
Image via Pixabay

We all have bad habits. And while some may be insignificant, like biting your nails, others may pose a serious risk to your health. So why do people continue their bad habits, knowing there is a health risk? That’s what researchers Abigail Gilman, PhD, a fellowship and compliance officer at Bryn Mawr College; Jennifer Quinlan, PhDprofessor at Drexel University College of Nursing and Health Professions; and Shauna Henley, PhD, a senior officer at the University of Maryland, set out to find out when it comes to washing raw poultry — despite knowing it’s a health risk — and how they might bring people to change their risky behavior.

Previous research by Quinlan and Henley, while a graduate student at Drexel, found that washing chicken was a common habit — 90% of survey respondents said they did — and there are few educational materials to let people know it’s dangerous. So they worked with New Mexico State University’s Media Productions Department to develop the “Don’t wash your chicken” countryside.

Although it received media coverage and a lot of people are talking about it, it also got some backlash. “Even after this campaign, polls show that nearly two-thirds of consumers in the United States and Canada continue to wash their chicken,” Gilman said.

Salmonella on poultry products contributes to 93 million cases of foodborne illness. Gilman said cross-contamination — when you get the bacteria on something else that shouldn’t be cooked — is one of the biggest potential ways to get foodborne illness. As the Don’t Wash Your Chicken campaign explains, washing raw poultry actually spreads harmful bacteria, like salmonella, to surfaces around the kitchen.

Recently published in the British Food DiaryGilman, Quinlan and Henley found that while some participants were unwavering in their chicken-washing behavior, almost 60% were willing to learn more about the health risks and possibly change their behavior.

“Before our study, few researchers had really conducted in-depth interviews to uncover some of the whys of their resistance to change, to better understand participants’ behaviors and what aspects of the message would best suit their behavior change,” said Gilman, who was a postdoctoral fellow working with Quinlan when they conducted the study.

The research was also innovative in its approach to using Transtheoretical model of behavior change (also called the Stages of Change Model) to understand where participants were in their behaviors and how researchers could move them forward in behavior change – eventually stopping washing raw poultry.

“We identified that there was definitely resistance to changing their behavior,” Gilman said. “This included the feeling that consumers needed to remove something from the surface of raw poultry. And just a general lack of confidence in the poultry processing system, as well as a very strong confidence in their own ability to prevent cross-contamination.

They found that many participants were unaware of the food process of transporting a chicken from the farm to the grocery store, as well as mistrust or distrust of the process. “What people really don’t understand – and I didn’t understand before I got involved in this research – is that when chicken is processed in a large processing plant, it’s actually washed multiple times before it’s even cooked. leave the processing plant. The treatment tries to eliminate as many bacteria as possible before they even hit the market shelves,” Gilman said.

After speaking with study participants, about 35% said they were willing to change their behaviors after learning about chicken processing, which is the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) standard. .

Another reason given by participants for sticking to their habits was the tradition of the place where they learned to cook. Many participants told the researchers that they learned cooking from their parents or grandparents, which included washing raw chicken as part of their food preparations. It has become a learned habit. Others told researchers they had been cooking for so long – some for 30 to 40 years – and had had no problems during that time that they felt no need to change now.

“It was really interesting to see how many people honor their families and where they come from in how they cook at home,” Gilman said. “There were people I spoke to who said they would be willing to change their behavior but if grandma came they would wash the chicken because you are never going to serve chicken that hasn’t been washed to your grandmother, because of that respect for tradition.”

Quinlan added that many different factors need to be considered. “Washing raw poultry is a ‘habit’ for some consumers, but for others it may be a much more difficult cultural practice to change,” Quinlan said. “Researchers and those promoting public health messages need to be sensitive and consider all aspects of why people do what they do.”

Gilman also mentioned that some of the previous posts lacked an alternative behavior for people instead of washing raw chicken, which also added to their resistance to change. She compared it to smoking cigarettes. “A lot of success in quitting smoking cigarettes is when they alternate behavior with nicotine lozenges or gum. If you’re used to picking up a cigarette and putting it in your mouth, they have need something to replace that feeling,” Gilman said. “With the chicken wash, it’s hard to tell people to change their behavior and do nothing and just season it and put it in your pot. “

But the participants wanted to know what they were supposed to do with the wet layer of “stuff” on the raw chicken (which is actually just protein in water). They needed an alternate plan to replace some of the behaviors. “There are a few recommendations – like just blotting your chicken with paper towels. That’s actually part of our next steps is that we’re working to develop an updated messaging plan that really achieves some of the results that we’ve found,” Gilman said.

Quinlan said they are currently working with collaborators from New Mexico State University and Partnership for Food Security Education to develop updated educational messages on washing raw poultry and they hope to have the new educational materials (all digital and online) ready for publication and distribution later this year.

Both Gilman and Quinlan were surprised at how open people were to learning about why washing raw chicken was bad. “This is important information that we use to develop new teaching materials – people need to know not only what to do, but also the ‘why’ behind it,” Quinlan said.

This research was supported by the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Media interested in speaking with Quinlan should contact Annie Korp, News Manager, at 215-571-4244 or amk522@drexel.edu.

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