Study Reveals Risks of Washing Raw Poultry in Southeast Asian Homes

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Study Reveals Risks of Washing Raw Poultry in Southeast Asian Homes
File: This photo is used for representational purposes only. (Photo: Freepik)

A recent study sheds light on the common practice of washing raw poultry in Southeast Asian households, highlighting the increased risk of cross-contamination associated with this habit.

Conducted across eight Southeast Asian countries, the study titled “Consumers’ raw poultry washing practices: A cross-sectional and observational study in eight Southeast Asian countries” analyzed responses from 2009 participants regarding their behaviors in Laos, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.

More than 45 percent of participants in the study purchased raw poultry products from traditional markets, with 96 percent of them admitting to washing them before cooking. Despite popular beliefs that washing removes impurities and ensures safety, research indicates otherwise.

Contrary to expectations, washing raw poultry does not eliminate bacteria. Instead, the process can spread microorganisms up to 70 cm, increasing the risk of contamination. Moreover, misconceptions about using ingredients like salt or lime juice for microbial reduction have been debunked, as they were found ineffective.

The findings also identified older, married, and lower-income individuals, as well as those purchasing from farms or wet markets, as being more inclined towards washing raw poultry. Additionally, various cross-contamination pathways were observed, including improper hand hygiene and contaminated kitchen surfaces.

Misconceptions abound regarding the use of ingredients like salt or lime juice to minimize microbial contamination. Research has shown that washing raw poultry with acidic solutions, such as diluted lemon, lime juice, or vinegar, is ineffective in reducing bacteria.

Additionally, participants often resort to using flour or lime during the washing or soaking process to alleviate odor. However, the study suggests that this practice is more about perception than actual safety.

Furthermore, other pathways observed during the washing procedure could contribute to contamination with foodborne diseases on various kitchen surfaces, including the sink, chopping board, kitchen cloth, and even the refrigerator door handle.

To combat the long instilled belief of washing raw poultry, the study suggested targeting safety messages and educational campaigns suited to local contexts, including using innovative communication tools regularly to induce behavioral change.

Participants from Laos and Indonesia displayed a willingness to change their habits upon understanding the risks associated with washing raw poultry.

Good hygiene practices are also advised, such as washing and sanitizing hands and kitchen equipment with soap and water after handling raw poultry.