Chicken meat can cause us serious health problems
Chicken meat can cause us serious health problems
Poultry is one of the most popular meats in the Czech Republic after pork – according to the Czech Statistical Office, every Czech consumes less than 30 kilograms of it per year – and this ranking of popularity could be projected to the whole world.
Poultry meat, usually chicken in the household, can cause very serious health problems if it is not handled properly in the kitchen. Bacteria, found in more than 50% of raw chicken meat, can even kill a person in critical cases, so it doesn’t hurt to remember again how to properly handle chicken in the kitchen.
Poor handling of raw meat in the home increases the risk of transmitting bacteria that are dangerous to health. Even a small piece of raw chicken can make a person suffer a lot or send them to the hospital. An example is the Czech fitness trainer Tereza Schauer, who got the bacteria from a chicken through a bump on her thumb. Teresa’s body suddenly developed septic shock, and the doctors gave her almost no chance of survival. In addition, bacteria are so aggressive that it is bad enough to wash a cutting board or knife and problems are almost impossible to avoid.
Bacteria that threaten us
Raw chicken is often contaminated with the thermotolerant bacterium campylobacter, which causes bloody diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps. Diarrhea may be accompanied by nausea and vomiting. Sometimes the disease can cause temporary paralysis. These symptoms usually begin 2 to 5 days after a person eats raw or undercooked chicken. According to the portal of the Information Center for Food Safety and the State Veterinary Administration, “in 2015, the presence of campylobacter in fresh poultry meat was confirmed in 46.7% of samples taken in slaughterhouses, processing plants or stores”. A total of 6,707 samples from 14 EU member states were examined, so it is not possible to say with certainty which country has the worst situation.
Another scare is salmonellosis, which is the most famous of all foodborne illnesses. The CDC website estimates that salmonella causes more foodborne illnesses than any other bacteria, and chicken is the main source of these illnesses. Most people who get salmonellosis have diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps. Symptoms usually begin 6 hours to 6 days after infection and last 4 to 7 days. Most people recover without specific treatment, but sometimes antibiotics are needed. They are usually only used to treat people who have a serious illness or are otherwise at risk. The problem with antibiotics, however, is that they often no longer work on the disease.
The last, more serious risk is caused by the bacterium Clostridium perfringens, which is also found in chicken meat. Most people with this infection develop diarrhea and stomach cramps within 6 to 24 hours after consuming the contaminated food. The illness usually starts suddenly and lasts less than 24 hours. Diarrhea, which is an accompanying sign of most of these diseases, can cause dehydration, especially in young children, so it is necessary to pay attention to the supply of fluids or to drink rehydration solutions.
How to properly handle chicken
But let’s move on to how to avoid all the complications described above. The first check should be done in the store itself, that is, try to determine whether the packaging of the purchased meat is not torn or has expired. If you buy meat from a butcher’s counter, it is most likely that the meat is fresh and handled properly when packaged.
When you get home, of course, you should store the meat in the refrigerator and not leave it on the kitchen counter for a long time before preparing it. Otherwise, the meat can contaminate the fly by laying eggs, which can happen in a very short time. Also, don’t rinse the meat, because you won’t wash any bacteria off it, on the contrary, it can spread to the sink, to the work line and get on your hands.
When it comes to preparing the meat itself, always use your own cutting board for chicken or wash it well with soap and warm water before using it for other foods. The same applies to the knife, on which bacteria can remain long enough to contaminate other parts of the food. It is also important that the chopped chicken meat is not mixed with other ingredients until immediately before heat treatment, which applies to e.g. skewers or various mixtures.
Last but not least, the meat must be heated to a sufficiently high temperature, higher than at least 70 °C, at which bacteria are destroyed. The biggest risk is grilled meat, which we cannot “see”, and only during consumption can we find out that, for example, drumsticks are still pink or bloody inside. That’s why it’s ideal to pierce the meat from the grill and see if it leaks pink juice, if so, put it back on the grill. Marinades in which raw meat is marinated, and which you then use as a rub during roasting, can also be a problem. Therefore, always prepare a new marinade for coating, which will not contain bacteria from pickled meat.
And since the warm weather ushers in grilling season, keep in mind that even properly prepared meats don’t last long in the heat, even at room temperature. Already a temperature above 22 °C allows bacteria to spread again, and eating leftovers in the morning after a good time in the garden can get out of control very quickly. Therefore, store processed poultry meat in the refrigerator for no longer than two hours and do not reheat it more than once.
Source: Food Safety Information Center, CDC; photo: iStock.com
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