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askST: Is it necessary to wash raw meat before cooking?

Reader Woo Ming See wrote in to ask if it is necessary to wash raw meat before cooking.

She says that the practice in her household is to rinse raw meat with salt under running water before cooking.

Food reporter Kenneth Goh finds out.

The Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) says that it is not necessary to wash raw meat unless there is foreign matter on the meat. It is also not necessary to rinse raw meat with salt and running water, or soak raw meat in salt water.

Raw meat and seafood may contain bacteria such as salmonella and campylobacter, which can cause food-borne illnesses like food poisoning, if the food not handled or cooked properly.

These illnesses can also spread through through cross-contamination. For example, washing raw chicken can spread bacteria onto one's hands, work surfaces, clothing and kitchen equipment, and may contaminate other food.

To kill off any bacterial contamination, food should be cooked thoroughly.

However, the AVA adds that if consumers prefer to wash raw meat, they should take care not to contaminate other foods (for example, ready-to-eat foods) and work surfaces in the kitchen.

Some tips to prevent the cross-contamination of food:

  • Do not mix raw food with cooked food.
  • Store raw meat, poultry and seafood in lightly wrapped plastic and place them on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator to prevent the meat juices from dripping onto other food.
  • Have separate cutting boards and utensils for raw and cooked food. If you only have one cutting board, always wash it thoroughly with soap and hot water in between using them for raw and cooked food.
  • After cutting raw meat, seafood and poultry, wash the knives thoroughly before cutting other food.