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Prairie Fare: Handle Chicken Carefully

While there are many safeguards in place in the food industry, consumers share the responsibility for food safety.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

“I don’t dare touch this chicken after reading those articles you write,” my husband said as we were cooking dinner one evening.

“Just wash your hands really well after you cut it up and you’ll be OK,” I responded.

He didn’t seem convinced. I don’t think he wanted the chicken-cutting task.

We followed all the usual food safety advice. Not only did we wash our hands before and after preparing the food, we also carefully washed the cutting board and knife. Then we used a food thermometer and cooked the chicken to 165 degrees, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s new temperature recommendation for poultry.

We all need to handle food carefully. While there are many safeguards in place in the food industry, consumers share the responsibility for food safety.

We certainly can’t see bacteria. We can’t smell or taste the presence of illness-causing microorganisms in food, either.

According to some estimates, one in three people in the U.S. gets a foodborne illness every year. Chicken typically is considered a “risky” food because it’s frequently contaminated with bacteria, such as salmonella and campylobacter.

Salmonellosis, the illness caused by an infection with salmonella bacteria, shows up anywhere between 12 and 72 hours of eating the contaminated food, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). About 40,000 cases of salmonellosis are reported yearly.

The flulike symptoms often include nausea, cramps, diarrhea and fever. Many people recover within a few days without special treatment, but others face serious consequences.

The number of salmonellosis cases has risen in recent years. The elderly are particularly at risk of dying from it. Infants and people with compromised immune systems also are particularly at risk of having more severe symptoms.

Some researchers have reported cases of reactive arthritis linked with salmonella infections. This type of arthritis, with its associated joint pain, shows up about three weeks after becoming ill.

While poultry and eggs usually come to mind when salmonella is mentioned, outbreaks also have been linked to contaminated raw meat, unpasteurized milk, shrimp, cream-filled desserts, peanut butter and several other foods. Handling contaminated pet food and reptiles have been linked to salmonellosis cases, too.

No one enjoys the consequences of foodborne illness. Follow these food safety tips from the CDC to reduce your risk of salmonellosis:

  • Cook poultry, ground beef and eggs thoroughly before eating.
  • Do not eat or drink foods containing raw eggs or raw, unpasteurized milk.
  • Wash hands, kitchen work surfaces and utensils with soap and water immediately after they have been in contact with raw meat or poultry.
  • If you are served undercooked meat, poultry or eggs in a restaurant, don't hesitate to send it back to the kitchen for further cooking.
  • Wash hands with soap after handling reptiles or birds or after contact with pet waste.
  • Avoid direct or even indirect contact between reptiles (turtles, iguanas, other lizards or snakes) and infants or immunocompromised people.

Here’s a 30-minute recipe from the USDA’s Team Nutrition Program. Don’t forget the safe handling rules!

Baked Lemon Chicken

3 1/2 pounds chicken - skinned and cut into 12 pieces

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

1 1/2 thinly sliced cloves of garlic or 1 tsp. garlic powder

4 fresh thyme sprigs or 1 tsp. dried thyme

3 c. thinly sliced onions

1 1/2 c. chicken stock or water

1/4 c. lemon juice

1 lemon sliced into 12 slices, seeds removed

Combine salt, pepper, garlic and thyme. Lay chicken pieces into 11-inch by 13-inch baking pan. Sprinkle seasonings over chicken. Combine onions, stock and lemon juice in a sauce pan. Heat to boiling. Pour hot lemon mixture around chicken. Top each chicken piece with a lemon slice. Bake for 30 minutes at 400 degrees until it’s golden brown, juices are clear colored and it reaches an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees.

Makes six servings. Each serving has 350 calories, 9 grams (g) of carbohydrate, 8 g of fat, 2 g of fiber and 310 milligrams of sodium.

(Julie Garden-Robinson is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187, julie.garden-robinson@ndsu.edu
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136, richard.mattern@ndsu.edu
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