Raw chicken hands - how bad is this?
May 4, 2020 12:56 PM   Subscribe

I handled some raw chicken. I got distracted. I fully cooked the chicken for a wrap (for sure - used a meat thermometer), assembled the wrap with raw-chickened hands and ate the wrap with raw-chickened hands. Am I for sure going to get sick?

I'm usually so vigilant, especially these days. I'm really kicking myself right now. Mostly, I just want to know if I should be 100% worried or if there is a chance I'll be fine.

(I'm in British Columbia, if that changes anything).
posted by thebots to Food & Drink (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Probably not going to get sick. And even if you do get sick, you won’t necessarily get dangerously sick. Obviously that was bad hygiene but surely your hands weren’t, like, dripping with chicken juice the whole time? If there were bacteria present, some of them died while the chicken was cooking. And your immune system can defend against bacteria to some extent.
posted by mskyle at 1:03 PM on May 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

I'm not a doctor, just someone who has lived through times without a lot of guidance surrounding raw meat. I also once ate a piece of a Wendy's chicken sandwich that was still raw in the middle.

I would say if you're not immunocompromised there is a huge chance you'll be just fine.
posted by kimberussell at 1:05 PM on May 4, 2020 [2 favorites]

It's likely you'll be fine but cleaning whatever distracted you and your raw chicken hands will give you the sense you're doing what you can do to make up for it.

(Like, soap or maybe dilute vinegar, don't burn your life down or anything.)
posted by mhoye at 1:07 PM on May 4, 2020

A significant percentage of all chicken is contaminated with salmonella, which is pretty easy to get. If it were me, I would stock up on oral hydration salts and try to avoid sharing a bathroom with anyone for a few days.
posted by wnissen at 1:21 PM on May 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

Whether you are FOR SURE going to get sick is an unanswerable question, because it's a question of whether the food was contaminated or not, and 100% of raw chicken is not contaminated. If this were an ingredient that was literally poisonous when uncooked, that would be one thing, but this is like asking "I touched my face after going outside, am I FOR SURE going to get covid?"
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:30 PM on May 4, 2020 [3 favorites]

@showbiz_liz - Yeah, I suppose I was looking more for a likelihood based on two things: 1) How often is chicken contaminated with salmonella (I googled but had a hard time parsing various sources - though it does seem like there have been ongoing outbreaks of salmonella in BC) and 2) assuming the chicken were contaminated, is it pretty much a guarantee that I would get sick or are there still factors that mitigate that risk (e.g. extensive handling vs. minimal, etc). Definitely did not word this question particularly well in my panic.
posted by thebots at 1:49 PM on May 4, 2020

Actually it looks like merely ingesting a couple of salmonella bacteriums wouldn't be sufficient anyway:

Infection usually occurs when a person ingests foods that contain a high concentration of the bacteria. Infants and young children are much more susceptible to infection, easily achieved by ingesting a small number of bacteria. In infants, infection through inhalation of bacteria-laden dust is possible. The organisms enter through the digestive tract and must be ingested in large numbers to cause disease in healthy adults.

So, not to say you COULDN'T potentially get sick from it, but it's very possible that you wouldn't even if the chicken was actually contaminated.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:57 PM on May 4, 2020 [4 favorites]

I got distracted....I'm usually so vigilant.

I think there's a good chance that you did wipe or wash your hands while on automatic pilot. Chicken hands feels gross. Your scenario imagines that you put up with that for a long time while you cooked and assembled your wrap (and possibly cleaned up the raw chicken container), which is unlikely especially if you're usually conscientious about kitchen hygiene. Could whatever distracted you be preventing you from remembering that you actually wiped, rinsed or washed your hands?
posted by carmicha at 2:10 PM on May 4, 2020 [5 favorites]

Washing your hands every time you handle raw chicken is another one of those things (like so many of our COVID interventions) that has an important and noticeable impact at a Public Health kind of level, but a relatively small impact on any individual healthy adult's personal risk.

Every day, millions of people handle raw chicken and then either do not wash their hands at all or wash their hands inadequately. A 2018 observational study showed that 97% of people failed to wash their hands properly after handling poultry (this is in the US). Obviously 97% of people who eat chicken (or food prepared alongside chicken) do not get sick. Even if we assume that only, say, 10% of the chicken was contaminated with salmonella (I think the numbers in the US are actually much higher, like 50%), if people got sick one out of every ten times they ate chicken, I don't chicken would be so popular. But a large enough percentage of people do get sick (especially kids/elderly/immunocompromised people) that it's really important that we use good hygiene!

You will probably not get sick. You probably wouldn't have gotten sick even if you licked a raw contaminated chicken breast (but please don't!).
posted by mskyle at 2:42 PM on May 4, 2020 [10 favorites]

Thanks for the info, everyone. I'll stop worrying but I'll prepare a few things just in case.
posted by thebots at 3:26 PM on May 4, 2020

In our family, we have a running joke about “poultry towels” because my mother so routinely wiped her raw-poultry hands on a dish towel instead of washing them. And then KEPT USING THE TOWEL FOR OTHER THINGS. She also ALWAYS put the cooked chicken back into the raw chicken marinade. No one ever got sick. I totally would not recommend that, but I have eaten raw poultry residue and unfathomable number of times, so based on personal experience I would guess that the absolute risk is very low.
posted by zibra at 11:39 AM on May 6, 2020

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