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‘Don’t contaminate your plate this summer – be a Chicken Scene Investigator’

New Zealand Food Safety’s Chicken Scene Investigators are back this summer to help you keep yourself, your whanau and friends healthy as you enjoy the festive season.

“Every summer, as we spend more time preparing food outdoors and away from our homes, we see an increase in cases of foodborne illness and related hospitalisations,” says New Zealand Food Safety Deputy Director-General Vincent Arbuckle. “And it’s our youngest, oldest and most vulnerable who have the highest chance of getting seriously sick.

“The most commonly reported foodborne illness is campylobacteriosis, which is caused by Campylobacter bacteria, and the most common source of Campylobacter in food is raw or undercooked chicken.

“So, one simple thing you can do this festive season to keep yourself, your whanau and friends healthy is to make sure you handle raw chicken safely.”

The Chicken Scene Investigators are back again this year to help you do this by spotting the chicken-handling crimes. Their tips include not washing raw chicken before preparing it, making sure you wash your hands after handling raw chicken, not letting raw chicken or its juices touch ready-to-eat foods, and cooking your chicken thoroughly.

You can watch the Chicken Scene Investigators solve the cases of the tongs, the tea towel, and the knife on YouTube.

“Campylobacteriosis symptoms are nasty and usually last for about a week but can take up to two weeks. They include diarrhoea, fever, headache, muscle aches, abdominal pain, and vomiting,” says Mr Arbuckle.

“In rare cases it could develop into more severe illness such as reactive arthritis or Guillain-Barré Syndrome, a disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks its nerves, sometimes resulting in permanent paralysis.”

If you have symptoms, you can call Healthline for free anytime on 0800 611 116 or contact your doctor or practice nurse for advice.

“So, wherever you are gathering – from BBQs to work dos, beach parties to kai at the marae, Christmas lunch or potluck dinner – please don’t contaminate your plate this summer.”

Chicken Scene Investigator tips to keep yourself, your whanau and friends safe:

  • Don’t wash your chicken before preparing it. Water doesn’t kill bacteria, so rinsing the chicken will just spread the bacteria to other surfaces. If you want to remove raw chicken juices, just pat the chicken dry with a paper towel instead.
  • Wash your hands in warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds after handling raw chicken – and dry them on a clean towel. This is so any bacteria from the chicken won’t spread from your hands to other food.
  • Keep your raw chicken separate from ready-to-eat and fresh foods, using separate chopping boards, plates, and utensils. Alternatively, wash them properly with hot soapy water before using for other foods.
  • If you’re cooking chicken on an BBQ, turn it often so it cooks evenly.
  • Make sure the chicken is fully cooked before serving – the juices should run clear. If you have one, use a meat thermometer to ensure the chicken is steaming hot (more than 75°C) all the way through.
  • Use a different plate for raw and cooked chicken.

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