Chicken food poisoning

This is probably the most well known type of food poisoning. Many of us have either experienced this first hand or know someone who has suffered from this nasty illness.

Yet chicken is one of the most popular foods around. There can’t be many people who do not enjoy roast chicken on a Sunday, chicken sandwiches or barbecued chicken. This includes children as well as adults who both enjoy the taste and versatility of chicken.

But the fact still remains that chicken is one of the worst offenders when it comes to food poisoning.

Poultry and food poisoning

The term ‘poultry’includes turkey, duck and goose as well as chicken but it is usually chicken which accounts for the majority of cases of food poisoning.

Food poisoning occurs because poultry such as chicken or turkey has not been allowed to defrost thoroughly before use or cooked for the correct length of time. Another factor is allowing raw poultry to come into contact with other foods.

Causes of chicken food poisoning

Chicken food poisoning is caused by two types of bacteria:

  • Campylobacter
  • Salmonella

Both of these bacteria are found in red meat, unpasteurised milk, poultry, e.g. chicken and eggs.

Campylobacter and salmonella bacteria live in the intestines of poultry and other livestock found on farms. These bacteria can be transmitted via their faeces into the human food chain. They can also pass into humans after the bird or animal has been slaughtered.

Campylobacter and salmonella are discussed in greater detail in our bacterial food poisoning section.

How does chicken food poisoning occur?

This occurs as a result of poor food preparation and/or hygiene. For example:

  • The juices from raw chicken being allowed to drop onto cooked poultry or other types of foods.
  • Chicken which has not been cooked at the correct temperature.
  • Chicken which has not been allowed to cook for the right length of time.
  • Failure to allow chicken to defrost thoroughly
  • Using the same chopping board for raw and cooked chicken
  • Eating chicken after the ‘sell by’ date

Another cause is washing chicken before cooking. Many people do this in the belief that it will remove germs and bacteria but what this does do is to spread these around worktops and the rest of the kitchen.

This increases the risk of food poisoning.

Symptoms of chicken food poisoning

The period of time from when the contaminated food is eaten to when the symptoms appear is called the ‘incubation period’.

In most cases of food poisoning the symptoms appear between 24 and 48 hours.

These include:

  • Fever
  • Abdominal pains
  • Upset stomach
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea

If you have a medical condition, a weakened immune system (e.g. as a result of cancer treatment) or a job which requires you to handle raw poultry then you are at increased risk of this type of food poisoning.

How long does chicken food poisoning last?

This very much depends upon the severity of your symptoms. The more serious your bout of food poisoning the longer it will last.

Most cases of food poisoning clear after a few days but serious cases will require medical treatment. Severe cases of food poisoning are usually treated in hospital.

Treatment for chicken food poisoning

Mild cases can be treated at home. This means plenty of fluids and bed rest. There are special re-hydration sachets you can take which replace any electrolytes and other important fluids lost through vomiting and/or diarrhoea.

These re-hydration sachets are available from a pharmacist.

If your symptoms worsen or persist then see your GP. He or she may prescribe antibiotics as this type of food poisoning is usually caused by a bacterial infection.

Your GP will recommend admittance to hospital if you are dehydrated, have developed complications such as seizures or are vomiting/passing blood.

Preventing chicken food poisoning

This type of food poisoning can be prevented by following a few simple procedures which include:

  • Washing hands before and after handling poultry
  • Checking cooking instructions and following these thoroughly
  • Ensuring that any frozen chicken has been completely defrosted before use.
  • Storing chicken at the right temperature in the fridge
  • Placing leftover chicken in small containers in the fridge
  • Keeping cooked and raw chicken separate

The main issue here is one of food safety: practise good hygiene when handling, preparing and cooking food and follow any instructions given.

Food Poisoning Guide

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