Chuck this chicken?

“Report: Saying ‘Smells Okay’ Precedes 85% Of Foodborne Illnesses Annually”

From The Onion  March 13, 2017
“ATLANTA—Presenting research with significant implications for public health, a report published Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that saying the phrase “smells okay” precedes 85 percent of foodborne illnesses in the United States annually. “We analyzed data from thousands of cases involving food-related ailments over the last decade and concluded that most individuals had given a quick once-over to leftovers and uttered some variation of ‘probably still good’ before spending the next several hours suffering intense stomach pain and vomiting,” said Dr. Robert Husted, director of the CDC’s Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases…”

The Onion News is, by definition, falicious, but funny.  Eating “bad” food is a good thing to avoid.

First scenario: The raw organic boneless chicken thighs stare balefully back at you through transparent wrapper.  6 days ago they were in your grocery cart, bound for a delicious curry, but busyness happened-and now the sellby date was two days ago. Opening the plastic package, you note an “off” odor– like meaty rotten eggs.  You touch the chicken and it’s a little sticky.  They were very expensive.  Maybe if you just rinsed it off with cold water, the bacteria will go away. Or not.

Second scenario: It’s a warm summer day and you’ve marinated fresh chicken on the counter for 4 hours in your favorite special sauce. You’ve cooked the chicken on the grill- looks like it’s done… but you don’t have a thermometer. You’re in a hurry, and it’s dripping with BBQ sauce. Smells great!  Dig in?

Is chicken that smells bad, bad?
Is chicken that smells good, good?

It’s a myth that you can see or smell or taste food safety attributes,” says Ben Chapman, PhD, a food safety specialist and associate professor at North Carolina State University. ” Smelling bad means that the chicken has started to decay.  The bad smell, change in color and stickiness are caused by “spoilage” bacteria. These bacteria can make you feel unwell if your immune system is weak, but these smelly or sticky bacteria don’t cause food poisoning.  Food states “Microorganisms occur everywhere in the environment, and there is always a risk of spoilage when foods are exposed to unsuitable conditions. Microbial spoilage results from bacteria, molds, and yeast. While microorganisms may or may not be harmful, the waste products they produce when growing on or in food may be unpleasant to taste.”  Well, yuck!   The addage “When in doubt, throw it out.” works well, here.

Rember that bacteria which can make you very sick can’t be detected by smell.  While your chicken may feel bad– like slimey, you can’t feel pathogenic bacteria.  They are odorless.
Bad bacteria, called “pathogenic” found on poultry are typically:

  • Camperlobacter jejuni
  • Salmonella
  • Clostridium perfengens

All cause gastrointestinal illness such as severe diarrhea and vomiting within hours of ingestion.  48 million cases of food poisoning in America each year result in almost 130,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths. These bad bacteria are good to avoid!

Pathogenic bacteria on poultry rapidly reproduces between temperatures of 40 and 140 F.   When marinating chicken like the scenario above, keep it in the fridge.  Make sure the fridge is set to lower than 40 F.

Four helpful hints from Food

  1. CLEAN: Wash your hands, wash food preperation surfaces. Don’t wash meat.
  2. SEPERATE: No cross-contamination between foods. Keep meet and veggies apart in the fridge, and use seperate cutting boards for food prep.
  3. COOK:  Internal temperature for chicken must be 165F
  4. CHILL: Refridgerate cooked foods within two hours. As pathogenic bacteria can’t be detected, refer to a USDA guides, such as Chicken From Farm To Table.


And: When in doubt, throw it out!


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