Your Wrapped Meat Leaks Bacteria-Laden Juice Everywhere

The poultry that you buy at the grocery store is securely wrapped up specifically so consumers don’t spread traces of chicken juice on everything that they touch, right? Well… about that. For a new study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the government agency in charge of making sure that our meat doesn’t kill us, scientists followed shoppers around and checked surfaces that they touched for poultry proteins. Guess what they found?

Much like the agency’s admonition not to wash chicken before cooking it, the study shows us that what seems safe to us at an intuitive level isn’t as safe as we might think. Handling poultry normally hasn’t killed (most of) us yet, but it’s fascinating to learn where bacteria end up and why.

Shoppers were told that the researchers were studying their behavior, but not that their poultry-handling behavior was the main focus. After the shoppers put wrapped packages of chicken or turkey in their carts, researchers found poultry protein on surfaces that they touched. Those surfaces included their carts (of course) as well as dry goods that they touched, other meat, frozen food, refrigerated items, and their own purses or children.

In stalking shoppers, the study also found that only about 20% of shoppers used the plastic bags supplied in the meat department specifically to prevent this from happening. 85% of the stores, which ranged from giant chains to tiny family-owned groceries, provided those bags to customers.

Think about that the next time you grab a door handle at the freezer case.

Study: Shoppers Spread Raw Poultry Juices at Store, Home [Food Safety News]