Safe handling of chicken to minimize campylobacter contamination

Handling raw chicken requires attention to some basic food hygiene principals to reduce the chances of eating food contaminated with campylobacter.

The Food Standards Agency quote that about four in five cases of campylobacter food poisoning in the UK come from contaminated poultry, especially chicken and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are an estimated 1.3 million illnesses in the United States each year caused by campylobacter.

Campylobacter has a low infective dose, meaning it takes very few germs (fewer than 500) to make someone ill (source). That means a single drop of juice from raw chicken can have enough Campylobacter in it to infect someone.

How to reduce the risk from campylobacter when handling chicken


Make sure your hands are washed and that the kitchen worksurfaces, cutting boards and utensils are thoroughly clean.  Immediately after being in contact with raw chicken, they should cleaned be again.  As well as washing before handling raw chicken, hands should be washed between handling different food items to avoid cross contamination.

Do not wash the chicken as droplets of water or spray from a tap is one of the easiest ways of spreading the bacteria.  Washing raw chicken will not remove bacteria.  The bacteria in poultry can only be killed when cooked to a safe internal temperature.

Avoid cross contamination

Always store raw chicken separately from other foods.  The best place is on the bottom shelf of the fridge, so it can’t touch or drip onto other foods. It’s especially important to keep chicken away from foods which will not be cooked before eating.

Never use cooking equipment or cloths that have been in contact with raw chicken on any other foods.  Equipment must be thoroughly washed after being used with the raw meat and before being used again.  Your hands should also be washed before handling raw chicken and again afterwards.

It is best to use different chopping boards for preparing and cutting other foods so that bacteria from raw meat does not contaminate foods such as salads and vegetables.


Poultry should be cooked through thoroughly.  Cooking food at the right temperature and for the correct length of time will ensure that harmful bacteria are killed.  Time and temperature are both important because proteins in bacteria need to be heated up for a long enough time for them all to be broken down and the bacteria die. This is the reason cooking removes the risk from harmful bacteria that are in some food.

Don’t rely on how cooked a piece of chicken looks.  Always make sure the correct internal temperature has been reached by measuring with a food thermometer.  Poultry should be cooked to at least 165°F and have stayed at that temperature for two minutes.

Probe wipes keep thermometers clean between core temperature checks.


Always maintain chilled storage conditions at 40°F or below.  Left-over cooked chicken should be left to cool down for around an hour before putting in a refrigerator.  Stored at the correct temperature it should be safe to eat for two to three days.

Further reading:

Want to read more about food safety? Read our  5 temperature safety tips.