One food safety tip that seems to be disregarded time and again by cooks and housewives is the admonition not to wash raw chicken under the tap or faucet to clean it.

Why? Because washing raw chicken before cooking can increase the risk of food poisoning from campylobacter and salmonella bacteria. Water splashing inside a kitchen from washing raw chicken carries these bacteria in all directions.

Washing chicken will spread these bacteria onto hands, work surfaces, clothing, plates, knives, forks, spoons and cooking utensils. Water droplets can splatter more than 50 cm (20 inches) in every direction from a faucet.

Doctors warn it takes only a few campylobacter cells to cause food poisoning. They also reveal that most cases of infection come from poultry. Some 50 percent of the chicken sold in the United Kingdom carries the campylobacter bacteria.

Campylobacter poisoning can cause stomach ache and severe diarrhea. In severe infections, the bacteria can sometimes cause vomiting for between two and five days.

The British government for years has waged campaigns to instill this type of food safety awareness in its citizens. Instead of washing raw chicken, British health authorities recommend cooking, which will kill campylobacter and any bacteria present.

Brits are told to ensure chicken is steaming hot all the way through before serving. There should be no pink meat when the meat is cut and the juices should be clear and not bloody.

In addition, they are told to scrupulously wash and clean all knives, utensils, chopping boards and surfaces used to prepare raw chicken. Hands must be thoroughly washed with soap and warm water after handling raw chicken. These steps help stop the spread of campylobacter.

This type of awareness is getting more attention in the United States. Only recently, the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) again confirmed washing raw chicken spreads salmonella and campylobacter to other foods and utensils. Washing sometimes spreads these bacteria throughout the kitchen.

A USDA study found 25 percent of side salads were contaminated by people washing poultry. It also discovered bacteria on refrigerator doors, spice containers and many kitchen items.

"You can't rinse salmonella off by washing it under water,” Carmen Rottenberg, FSIS administrator, said. “The only way to kill it is by cooking it to a safe internal temperature of 165 degrees.”

USDA says it's very important to keep raw foods far away from cooked items.

Raw chicken placed on a plate. Photo courtesy of Pixabay