Ireland’s Food Safety Promotion Board, safefood, has issued food safety advice urging consumers not to wash the Christmas Turkey before placing it in the oven.

The practice of washing or rinsing poultry under the tap is likely to lead to increased risk of the spread of germs including campylobacter in the kitchen, through splashes and droplets, given the levels which may be present on raw poultry, safefood said.

“Washing birds is a tradition based on a myth,” said Dr Thomas Quigley, director, science and technical.  “Recent research has shown that bacteria, particularly campylobacter, can be spread significant distances in the kitchen, and any practice which transfers these organisms, should be avoided. By simply placing the bird directly into the baking tray and straight into the oven, consumers can avoid this situation. All harmful germs will be killed by cooking the bird thoroughly, leaving the meat safe to eat.”

“Of course this advice applies to every occasion when poultry is being prepared, not just at Christmas time. Poultry should be cooked until the juices run clear, ensuring it is piping hot all the way through and there is no pink meat left.” he said.

Studies examining consumer behaviour in the kitchen have shown that practices that are likely to lead to cross-contamination from raw foods, such as poultry, to foods that are ready to eat, are common.

Germs may also be found on the outside of poultry packaging, especially if leakage of juices has occurred, so safefood is urging consumers to use safe practices that do not cause cross-contamination in the kitchen, whilst preparing all raw meat and poultry this Christmas.

“If you think the bird really needs cleaning, use a paper towel and dispose of it,” Dr Quigley said.