LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — As Thanksgiving approaches, experts are saying a regular food-preparation practice may increase the risk of developing a food-borne illness.

A recent study suggests 90% of Americans wash their poultry before cooking it.

But the U.S. Department of Agriculture has advised against washing raw poultry, including turkey and chicken, according to food researcher Jennifer Quinlan. The department suggests that, rather than getting rid of bacteria, washing your raw poultry is more likely to spread it around your sink. This increases the risk of contaminating clean dishes, which would make the bacteria easier to ingest.

“In literature, they call it aerisolization,” Quinlan said. “You’ve got this tiny spray, this microscopic spray, that is splashing back.”

In a demonstration using a black light, Chef Carol Cotner Thompson of The New School of Cooking showed what can happen when a turkey is washed.

The turkey was covered using a substance called Glo-Germ, which acted to simulate bacteria, and was rinsed in the sink.

The results were troubling.

Despite an otherwise clean-looking sink and counter, when the lights were turned off, the black light revealed the Glo-Germ had spread. Orange dots were found around the sink, including on the faucet and handles, as well as on the counter, and on Thompson herself.

“My hands are a mess, but it even went up my arm,” Thompson said.

Some areas were still exposed to contamination by the substance even after they were cleaned a second time, showing that dangerous bacteria such as Salmonella can be difficult to avoid if proper steps are not taken.

“It can spread far, and it doesn’t take much to be in there to make you sick,” Quinlan said.

Instead, experts say to place the turkey, still in its bag, in the sink, and empty the juice before placing the turkey immediately in the roasting pan.

The New School of Cooking’s owner, Chef Chris Becker, gave CBS2’s Lisa Sigell a number of tips for those who do not want to give up washing their poultry this Thanksgiving:

–If you must wash the poultry, make sure that you do so in the deepest sink that you have, decreasing the effect of splashing water.

–Sanitize the area a second time with a few drops of bleach and water.

–If you simply want to clean the top of the bird, use a wet paper towel and wipe it down before throwing the towel away.

For more information on Thanksgiving safety tips, visit the USDA’s page about washing poultry and Drexel University’s Don’t Wash Your Chicken website.


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