ANSWER - from: The National Post, December 24, 2004
No. Washing poultry risks spreading harmful bacteria
The U.S. federal government's proposed 2005 dietary guidelines advise cooks, according to this story, not to rinse poultry and that the turkey should go straight from bag to pan to avoid spreading potentially deadly bacteria such as salmonella or campylobacter all over the kitchen.
Fergus Clydesdale, who runs the food science department at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and was on the U.S. Agriculture Department's Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, was quoted as saying, "The risk of cross-contamination through washing poultry is far greater than shoving it in the oven without washing it, which makes the risk almost zero."
According to the guidelines, which are revised every five years, rinsing is, the story says, one of the most common ways bacteria contaminate food.
Lydia Medeiros, an assistant professor of nutrition at Ohio State University, was quoted as saying, "It's pretty simple and logical. When you wash the poultry, you have to think of where that bacteria is going. The water splashes on the counter and goes into the sink and gets into the crevices around the drain. You're actually setting up colonies of pathogens."
The story says that not washing the Christmas turkey may be a radical change in protocol for many home cooks, but it is not the first time government safety recommendations have bumped up against the opinion of cooks, particularly Christmas cooks.
Government scientists suggest cooking the turkey with a thermometer in its thigh until the temperature reaches 180F. Chris Kimball, the editor of Cook's Illustrated, was cited as saying that's a temperature so high it can render the turkey too dry, and that the cooks in his test kitchen recommend a temperature of 170F for thighs. Breast meat is at its best 10 degrees lower, adding, "I'm not against food safety. But I'm not eating turkey cooked to 180 degrees, thank you very much."
Rinsing is, the story says, a part of Kimball's routine and because brining is often believed to make the bird more tender, he soaks his turkey in a salt solution for four hours before roasting. But a brined turkey that is not rinsed would be too salty to eat.
Linda Harris, a microbiologist at the University of California, Davis, was cited as saying that brining slows the growth of bacteria but does not kill it, and that she and other food scientists have been trying to get Americans to stop rinsing poultry since the late 1990s.
Certainly a thorough hand washing with hot water and soap and an equally attentive sink scrubbing would eliminate much of the risk of cross-contamination, but meticulous sink and counter maintenance often goes out the window, particularly on Christmas, when cooks are dealing with high volumes of food and the distraction of a houseful of guests.