Surveys find chicken safety confusion and produce testing potential

Surveys find chicken safety confusion and produce testing potential

by Sue Jones
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More than three-quarters of older Australians surveyed think it’s not safe to refreeze raw chicken that has been defrosted in the fridge, according to a poll.

Omnipoll found 88 percent of those over 65 thought it was unsafe compared with 58 percent of 18 to 24 year-olds.

The Food Safety Information Council released the research during Australian Food Safety Week to tackle the idea that it is unsafe to refreeze chicken defrosted in the fridge.

It was conducted nationally online by research company Omnipoll in September 2021, among a sample of 1,232 people aged 18 years and over.

The survey also found that 83 percent of respondents correctly said you shouldn’t refreeze if the chicken had been defrosted outside the fridge at room temperature. This is unsafe as food poisoning bacteria can grow in these conditions. Overall, 93 percent of those over 65 got this right although 67 percent of 18 to 24 year-olds thought it was fine to refreeze chicken defrosted on the bench.

Dispelling myths
Cathy Moir, FSIC chair, said the group wanted to bust myths about food safety.

“It has been such a common myth over the years that you can’t refreeze raw chicken or other raw meats that have been safely defrosted in the fridge. Minimizing food waste is an important objective for our entire community, so it’s important for us to clarify this fact,” she said.

“We’ve all been in the situation where we have defrosted more frozen chicken or meat than we may need for dinner and then plans change. As long as the raw chicken, or any other frozen food, has been safely defrosted in a fridge running at 5 degrees C (41 degrees F) or below, it is perfectly safe to refreeze it to use at a later date. What you will get is a slight loss in the eating quality of the chicken so use it up as soon as you can.”

FSIC also reminded people not to wash raw chicken before cooking as this will spread any bacteria throughout the kitchen.

Vivien Kite, executive director of the Australian Chicken Meat Federation, said the question “Can you refreeze chicken?” is one of the most searched terms that brings people to its website.

FSIC members First for Training and the Australian Chicken Meat Federation made charitable donations to support Australian Food Safety Week.

Survey on produce testing
Meanwhile, another survey has found most in the produce industry perform some kind of in-house microbial testing on a regular basis at multiple control points. Wash water and swab testing are widely used. However, fewer than 20 percent use any form of rapid diagnostic technique for in-house microbial testing.

Mixed Fresh Fruits Vegetables ProduceThe Fresh Produce Safety Centre (FPSC) Australia New Zealand survey covers rapid diagnostic methods for foodborne pathogens. It was distributed in October and received 30 responses, mainly from those in the leafy greens, sprouts, berries and melon sectors.

Respondents want an accurate, low-cost-per-test rapid diagnostic method, capable of giving a quantitative result on levels of Listeria, E. coli and Salmonella, in less than three hours. Concerns about the accuracy of tests and capital costs of rapid testing were ranked as the main obstacles to adoption.

Three quarters of respondents said costs would need to be below AU$10 (U.S $7.30) per test to be a viable option.

Other findings include 59 percent of respondents perform microbial tests at least monthly, with 10 percent doing so at least daily. The majority indicated their testing is carried out by third-party providers, although some businesses perform tests both in-house and by a third party, with 46 percent doing at least some tests in-house.

Jo Rush, who studied the results, said: “The results of the survey include that respondents ranked the accuracy of rapid diagnostic methods as the most important factor, ahead of speed, ease of use and cost. What is very encouraging is that over 70 percent of respondents would be interested in using a suitable rapid diagnostic method as a first stage test in their business to verify processes.”

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)

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