British Shoppers Are Being Warned To Wash Their Hands After Picking Up Chicken Packages In The Store

Supermarket shoppers in the UK are receiving warnings about handling packages of poultry in the store. We're all aware that it's important to cook chicken thoroughly in order to kill off any dangerous bacteria lurking in it, and to avoid cross-contamination in the kitchen by thoroughly washing surfaces (and hands) the raw fowl has come into contact with — but what about the packages chicken is wrapped in?

An investigation published by the Telegraph has found that the surface of just over 1 percent of chicken packages of chicken, on average, contain the harmful bacteria known as Campylobacter (the number one cause of food poisoning in the world). That means just picking up a package might be dangerous.

"I strongly suspect that many food poisoning cases are from cross contamination, which may involve the spread of bacteria from contaminated hands to mouth as well as via contaminated food," Dr. Lisa Ackerley, an independent food hygiene expert, told The Telegraph. "The routes of transmission could be much wider than people realize. For example people quite often get hungry in the supermarket and may buy snacks such as crisps to eat on the way home. But if they've picked up chicken with bacteria on the outside packaging and licked their fingers they could consume enough bacteria to become ill."

The British government doesn't seem to share Ackerley's concerns. The Food Standards Agency has responded to the investigation, saying that getting food poisoning from chicken packaging is "extremely unlikely."