The Revenge of the Poultry from Beyond the Gravy…

Salmonella and Campylobacter. Sigh. I have grown enough of these in a single experiment to bring down a medium sized city.

Oh it’s easy, when you use growth media designed to make them grow fast. It’s how we find them quickly when there’s an outbreak. It’s also how we test food before it goes on sale. Sometimes it’s in the supermarkets before the test is complete but we can recall it pretty fast.Heavy contamination will show up in 24 hours but it takes about 4 days to be certain it’s a negative.

We test for other things too but the big names in chicken and turkey and general poultry are Salmonella and Campylobacter.

At the end of the experiment, everything goes into a big pressure cooker called an autoclave. Fifteen minutes in there and there is no life anywhere inside it. It’s not magic, it’s exactly the same principle as a home pressure cooker, just scaled up so you can fit a disobedient technician into it. In the past, we actually used home pressure cookers in the lab as benchtop sterilisers for small amounts. of stuff. Now there are custom built benchtop ones. They do the same thing but they look more sciency and they have timers so they don’t go bang if you forget.

For these two nasties, all you need is to have the centre of the meat exceed 80 decrees C and they’re dead. Cook that chicken properly, don’t handle salad with chicken grease on your fingers and you’re fine. It’s only dangerous when it’s raw, or when you let it contaminate stuff you aren’t going to cook.

I’ve never had either infection despite my cavalier cooking methods and despite working with them (and other nasties I haven’t personally caught) for almost 40 years. They aren’t hard to kill.

They are, however, very hard to get rid of at source. For Salmonella, many UK poultry farms use a vaccine introduced via drinking water. It won’t wipe them out but it will reduce their numbers. On a bird carcass, Salmonella is mostly surface contamination. Inside surfaces too – it lives in the guts and can get into some internal organs. Still, that’s easy. As long as the surface is cooked, it’s dead.

Campylobacter is a little different. This one lives in the gut too but it can get into muscle tissue. It can be inside the meat. That’s the one you need to kill by cooking the chicken all the way through. Getting the centre of the meat past 80C is enough – you don’t need 200C in the centre. If you achieve that, you have a roast chicken that will shatter like glass when you try to carve it and will probably be about the size of a quail.

Minced/ground meat is a special problem. For any meat. If you have a beef steak you can flash-fry the outside and the inside can be pretty much raw. The only contamination is on the outside. Ostrich steaks are also best quick-cooked. Even though they are birds they don’t seem to suffer Campylobacter infections.

If you make steak mince, you have mixed the outside contamination all through the final product. It’s now internally contaminated and – as with sausages and burgers – you need it cooked right through.

So with poultry mince you will now have both Salmonella and Campylobacter all through the finished product. Nasty.

Not if you cook it thoroughly. It’s mince. If there are no pink bits left then all the bits are cooked and the nasties are dead. I admit, when making any dish with mince, I cook the mince completely before starting with any added sauces. I take no chances with high risk foods.

Should the mince be a no-risk food? That’s impossible. You can never be sure the processing plant is perfectly sterile even if the starting product is clear of pathogens. The processing plant is staffed by people and if you sterilise your staff in an autoclave their productivity will suffer and you might get nasty letters from their relatives. People carry diseases. It happens. Deal with it.

How do you deal with it? Cook it thoroughly and wash your hands after handling raw meats. Disinfect kitchen surfaces (the spray stuff is good enough, you don’t need a flamethrower) and wipe down with disposable paper towels, not a cloth. A contaminated cloth is a stupid thing to have in a kitchen.

That’s it. That’s really it. Poultry, mince, any raw meat is a risk but it’s an easily managed risk. Just do what your grandparents did. It worked for them and it’ll work for you.

Each year, the article says, 830,000 Americans get sick from eating contaminated poultry. There is no excuse for this. All it takes is a few simple things – proper cooking and kitchen hygiene.

You are not going to eradicate these bacteria at source. You’re dealing with living organisms and chickens are, it must be said, among the most disgusting of living things.

But they taste so good. Just cook them properly.



30 thoughts on “The Revenge of the Poultry from Beyond the Gravy…

  1. My girlfriend got camphylobactre from undercooked chicken, at uni. Nasty but she got over it. But the medics had kittens when they couldn’t get in touch with her – she had gone on holiday.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Disinfect kitchen surfaces (the spray stuff is good enough, you don’t need a flamethrower) Since reading that site i have gone on to using Hydrogen Peroxide 3% for a lot of things, it’s also really useful around the house and even stops the grout mould in the shower.
    But I’ve had salmonillia , the real ‘shitting tomato ketchup’ one. Not ‘gastric flu’ not the ‘collywobbles’ the real deal and you NEVER forget that. Cramps so bad you cannot not scream, the pain is the nearest a man can get to child birth so my doctors said. Cramps so bad you piss yourself. So I’m pretty paranoid, there is a ‘3 day’ rule in our house and our fridge. I don’t care if it is filet steak or cheese handmade by naked virgins in the olive groves of Mount Olympus. On the third day after opening it goes in the bin. That said I still don’t seem to get around to clean my fridge more than every couple of months 😦
    Another protip: Get a food thermometer and read the Book Of Words that comes with it….and sterilize after each use.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. BTW I had the dishwasher repairer out yesterday to look at my dishwasher. He was telling me the new Zanussi models now collect the waste water from the previous wash and reuse it for the next.
    All in the name of saving the environment.
    As a lot of people only use theirs at 30C -in the name of saving the planet and money- I should imagine that that is a mass outbreak of something nasty just waiting to happen. Me I always use mine at 70C, which I assume takes not only the pictures off the cups and the tea stains but also the ‘nasties’? I think Kim & Aggie said so.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Most sewage systems are designed around Victorian assumptions of how much water goes down the toilet with every flush. Modern low-flow toilets are different, and are designed to get by using much less water. This means that the old assumption of around a gallon of water per flush is no longer true.

      Cities in California have in current years been having to wrestle with the mind-bending consequences of this. The problem, you see, is that the average government drone has no concept of things being interlinked. So, an edict that only low-flow toilets be put into new-build houses together with a re-fit programme to phase out old-fashioned toilets has achieved the original aim, which was to reduce water usage.

      However the problem now is that there isn’t enough water flowing through the sewers to keep them clear, and the morons who thought up this most cunning of plans hadn’t thought to think ahead to what happens when sewers don’t clear. The answer came back to them soon enough: sewer stinks, blockages and a bill for treating these problems of several times that of the water savings they had achieved.

      The Victorian engineers knew all about poorly-clearing sewers, and what you do about it. The Americans, less so. There is therefore good money to be made selling century-old automatic sewer flushing devices to idiot American municipal authorities.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Saving water – they want all recyclable plastic and glass bottles rinsed out before they go in the bin. Add up all the water everyone uses to do that and it’s a lot of water.

        Yet where it’s needed – in the sewer system – they restrict it.

        I’d better go look up Vibrio cholerae. Could be some work in that one soon.

        Liked by 2 people

    • 30C is incubation temperature. it doesn’t kill anything. Re-using water at that temperature is a horror story waiting to happen!

      70C will kill most things, but even so, I’ll avoid any machine that re-uses the wash water.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Strangely enough, I started experiencing sudden outbreaks of excema ever since we’ve been indoctrinated to wash everything at 30 degrees. I didn’t make a connection, despite noticing that my sheets felt cleaner when I washed them at my usual 60 degrees. Perhaps because heat kills dust mites? The other day, I watched a programme about excema and how they’re now linking it to an overdose of bad skin bacteria and have manufactured a cream to rebalance it with good bacteria. A bit like probiotics for the gut, I guess. Well, I never…


    Liked by 1 person

  5. Re hot water temperatures and laundering: I tend to keep my hot water turned up rather high, probably at about 60C, with the theory being that I’m not usually going to be exposing myself to it at that temperature for more than fractions of a second as a bit of it splashes on me while washing a plate etc, and the extended theory being that in most situations I’ll be diluting it with cold water.

    However, I just realized that part of my planning with a new washing machine may have a big gaping loophole in it! There’s a very significant gap in time ‘n space between the hot water heater and the washing machine: a good thirty to forty seconds or so before the cold water in the pipeline gets replaced by the full strength of hot water from the hot water heater. Since the machine is one of these “water-saving” type units that doesn’t float the clothes around in a whole swimming pool, the initial cold water probably accounts for at least ten to twenty percent of the total water in the wash. Add in the laundry items themselves at room temperature, and I bet there’s a good chance that my 60C hot water is getting knocked right down to that 40 to 50C range. :/

    I’ll have to experiment a bit with this. Hmm… I think I’m probably due to wash another laundry load in April… no… wait… May. OK. I’ll letcha know how it turns out unless I decide to skip my Spring laundering this year.


    Liked by 2 people

      • The machines you buy here in Greece only have a cold water inlet connection. All the heating is done by an element in the machine. Likewise, the houses are only ever fitted with a cold water supply for the washing machine.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hmmm…. I’ll have to check, but I’m pretty sure I’ve got both hot and cold water pipes running into the washer from the basement. I may put off that Spring laundry until sometime in the Fall just to make sure I’ve got a window for checking that.

        – MJM, “Any excuse’ll do…”

        Liked by 1 person

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