Despite attempts by food safety agencies to get the message out there that washing chicken before cooking is a bad idea for all sorts of reasons, recent research revealed that around half of the Australians surveyed still washed chicken as part of the food preparation process. Here we take a look at that survey in more detail. In addition, we discuss why relatively low levels of food hygiene awareness in the general population make it even more important to ensure that all staff working in a food-related environment are trained in food handling and food safety.

A consumer survey was conducted

Details of the survey appeared on the Food Safety News website late last year. Researchers from the Australian Chicken Meat Federation and the Food Safety Information Council conducted a consumer survey on respondents’ chicken eating habits just prior to the festive season. Over a thousand adults across Australia took part in the survey. The results showed that poultry remained a popular choice, but around half (49%) of the respondents washed their chicken as part of the food preparation process.

Cause for concern

The high percentage of respondents who washed chicken before cooking it is clearly cause for concern – as any food hygiene expert will tell you, washing a chicken is one of the easiest ways to spread any bacteria on the chicken across work surfaces, onto utensils and even onto other foodstuffs. A single drop of water from a contaminated chicken contains more than enough Salmonella or Campylobacter to make someone sick. Cooking the chicken destroys any bacteria present, ensuring the meat is safe to eat.

Damaging consequences country-wide

The survey doesn’t just have damaging consequences for Australians as a whole, it’s also of relevance to workers in the food and hospitality sectors. Despite stringent regulations and requirements, there are still more than five million cases of food poisoning in Australia each year, many of which can be linked back to ingredients that have been incorrectly prepared in a commercial environment. Given that nearly half of Australians appear to lack the knowledge required to prepare chicken correctly, it’s evident that employers in the food and beverage sector can’t afford to assume new employees will have the appropriate level of food safety knowledge to prepare dishes in line with the high standards required.

Food hygiene training is vital

To minimise the risk of your business becoming the source of a food poisoning incident, food hygiene training for employees is essential. A high-grade food hygiene course, particularly one that leads to a recognised certification, is one of the best ways to ensure every employee working on your premises has the right skill set and knowledge to keep your customers safe. Some of the advantages of opting to provide certified training for your employees include:

• Improved workforce confidence: The confidence that your workforce can be relied on to work safely, reducing the risk to customers.

• Minimise staff negligence: In the unfortunate event that a food-poisoning incident is traced to your premises, it’s unlikely to be down to staff negligence.

• Negate grounds for suing: Untrained staff who are penalised for storing or preparing food in an unhygienic way may have grounds to take an employer to court, claiming they couldn’t be expected to know how to work correctly without appropriate training.

• Flexible study arrangements: There are a number of different, flexible methods of obtaining a food hygiene certificate. Employees can study in their own time and it’s possible to access online training 24/7 – perfect for catering employees who work shifts that mean regular attendance at college or similar would be difficult to accommodate.

• Employees value training: Providing high-quality training that leads to certification improves morale and encourages staff retention – two key goals for any successful business.

• Improved skillsets: Skilled workers provide a better service, are more productive and overall enable your business to achieve more and grow as a company.

• Healthier kitchen culture: Embed a kitchen culture where food safety and hygiene are priorities at all times. Being named and shamed as the source of a food-poisoning incident is often the kiss of death for a food-related business. Why risk it? Making sure your staff are appropriately trained and certified in food handling and safety is one of the easiest ways to protect the reputation of your business.

Ensure the safety of your customers

The survey from Food Safety News tells us that levels of food hygiene knowledge in Australia are disappointingly low. Ensuring workers in the food and beverage industry are appropriately certified in food safety and food hygiene is one of the best ways to not only improve food safety and quality in the workplace but also to boost vital food safety knowledge in the community as a whole.