More than eight out of ten (81%) Britons who cook meat and poultry meals at home could be unnecessarily putting themselves at risk of food poisoning by rinsing poultry under the kitchen tap as part of their cooking regime, according to the UK’s Food and Drink Federation (FDF).

Food safety scientists have found that this seemingly sensible action splashes any invisible bacteria on the meat onto nearby taps, kitchen surfaces and foods. Food poisoning bacteria is killed by thorough cooking, so it is unnecessary to rinse the bird beforehand, the FDF said.

However, many food safety messages appear to be getting through. According to a new survey by the FDF, for the launch of the Foodlink National Food Safety Week, over half (54%) of those surveyed know that it is important to store raw meat on the bottom shelf of the fridge to avoid the juices dripping onto other foods. This is up from 41% in 1996.

Over half of Britons (57%) always use separate chopping boards and knives for cutting raw meats and ready to eat vegetables – up from 45% in 1996.  A further 14% say they wash the utensils/board in between. Nine out of ten said they would always wash their hands after touching raw meats and before handling salads and ready to eat foods. This is up from seven out of ten in 2002.

Foodlink, organised by the Food and Drink Federation in association with the Food Standards Agency and other health agencies, also asked what Britons used to clean down their kitchen surfaces. Around 35% of those surveyed most commonly use a dishcloth; 23% use kitchen roll; 20% use a sponge; and 19% anti bacterial wipes.
Of those that use a dishcloth or sponge, a third (33%) disinfect, boil or bleach it to keep it clean – the most effective methods. Worryingly, more than one in ten (11%) only rinse the cloth or sponge, which doesn’t kill any harboured bacteria and could in fact spread the invisible germs around kitchen surfaces.