Dr Hector Perera London
When you walk down your high street, you might see different kinds of little shops such as grocery, vegetable and butcher shops. Have you not noticed that in some butcher shops they hang chickens, pieces of beef and lamb just above the counter just like that for hours? Who would say that any kind of meat should be left hanging in the air open to air than in the fridge or freezer? I think sometimes they leave these pieces of meat and chicken for hours without fridge or freezer condition. Now who would say this is hygienic and safe to eat?
Raw chicken becomes contaminated with bacteria from the gut, skin and feet of the birds during slaughter and from the water and ice used in processing. It says, chilling the carcass immediately after slaughter reduces the number of microbes on most meats because it dries the surfaces. However this has less effect on chickens because their skin can stay moist. The raw chicken is stored at a low temperature which reduces the rate at which bacteria reproduce. Eventually cold-loving microbes such as Pseudomonas will cause spoilage, making the meat smelly and slimy. Other factors which affect the rate of spoilage are pH and the type of packaging.
At home chicken should be cooked thoroughly, handled hygienically, wrapped to prevent contamination by microbes from the air or other foods, cooled quickly and stored at 0–5°C. Refrigeration will slow the growth of microbes but it will eventually spoil. Cooked chicken should be eaten up quickly. Have you not noticed that in some cooking programmes in British TV, some chefs do not take care in handling and cooking them properly?
The microbiological content of cooked poultry products depends on the methods of processing, packaging and storage. Sometimes bacteria and spores in the centre of the product may survive cooking. This is the reason why chicken should be properly cooked rather tossing up and down the pan and say, “cooked”. The meat may become contaminated after cooking during handling, slicing and packaging. Some chefs even some Sri Lankan ladies constantly stirring these chicken curries and some keep on tasting even before they are properly cooked. Cured products will tend to spoil in the same way as other cured meats such as ham. Non-cured products which have been packaged in the absence of oxygen may be spoiled by a bacteria called Enterobacter which produce very strong and unpleasant odours in the packet. Packaged meats should be consumed before the use by date on the label. Even in some little shops and sometimes in some supermarkets, they leave packets of meat just outside the freezing area. That may be because some customers pick them up to see then just leave outside the freezing area. Then the people who work in that area need to attend to these thing but sometimes they just leave them for hours. Twice it happened to me when I got some packed chicken from a local small chain shops. As soon as I removed the polythene, I could smell the rotten smell coming out of it. What could I do other than discarding it away than taking it back to the shop?
Can it be harmful?
Poultry is a common source of food-borne illness. Food poisoning bacteria such as Campylobacter-jejuni, Salmonella, Clostridium perfringens and Staphylococcus aureus live in the gut and/or skin of the birds. They can get on to raw chicken during slaughter and processing. Outbreaks of food poisoning are often due to inadequate cooking or recontamination of the poultry after cooking. Raw poultry can also be a source of food poisoning bacteria for cross-contamination to other foods prepared in the same kitchen. Quite often some people use the same spoon to stir the cooking chicken curry then it is possible for this cross contamination.
Majority of super market chickens carry food bug.
Some news from the media
“More than 70% of fresh chickens being sold in the UK are contaminated,” BBC News reports. A Food Standards Agency (FSA) investigation found worryingly high levels of contamination with the campylobacter bug, which can cause food poisoning, on chickens being sold across the country. The Guardian reported a food scientist, Professor Tim Lang, calling for a “boycott of supermarket chicken because of 'scandalous' levels of contamination”.
Campylobacter is a type of bacteria thought to be the leading cause of food poisoning in the UK. Eating food contaminated with campylobacter can trigger symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and stomach cramps.
I think pretty much everyone understands that you don’t eat raw chicken that you need to cook it thoroughly. That’s because raw chicken meat can potentially carry certain species of bacteria which, if consumed, can cause illness. While bacteria (only some of which can potentially cause illness) can be found on any perishable food, particularly meat, the reason you need to be particularly careful with poultry is that, chicken and other poultry is processed (and often packed) with its skin on, and just like most people like the skin, so do bacteria! Fortunately, the bacteria of most concern in this respect in the case of poultry meat, Salmonella and Campylobacter, are easily killed by normal cooking temperatures. However, while cooking will make the chicken itself safe, it’s important to understand that raw poultry must also be handled carefully to prevent contamination of other cooked foods or foods that will be eaten raw; for example salads.
The majority of calls from the public to the Australian Chicken Meat Federation office are from consumers who understand the fundamentals of safe handling and preparation of chicken, but are worried that they may have (or be about to!) mishandle the product. Many are confused about the interpretation of some of the recommendations for safe handling of poultry meat, and just want to be sure that they aren’t going to do the wrong thing. And in fairness, some recommendations are a bit hard to interpret in practice; some are also based on the assumption that the chicken has received some mishandling in the process from getting it from the processing plant to your refrigerator, and so recommendations are going to be somewhat conservative as a result.
Dr Hector Perera