Originally Posted by JP61
In order to prevent cross-contamination, food-safety experts suggest not to wash meat or poultry before cooking.
I have not seen that before, and I am not sure I understand why washing meat would lead to cross-contamination. However, it didn't take much searching to confirm that what you say is indeed the recommendation from the USDA. Here is a link to their article that says precisely what you are saying:
Washing Food: Does it Promote Food Safety?
However, I find myself scratching my head over this advice.
Cross contamination is where utensils (or hands) that have touched the raw product are later used to handle the cooked product, thus adding back to the finished product all the bacteria that was removed from the food by cooking. When I wash meat, and then cook it, I wash all the utensils, the counter, the sink, and my hands immediately after the meat goes into the oven or grill. However, the USDA article assumes that I am too incompetent to carry out these tasks correctly, and therefore, because they assume that I am unable to clean up correctly, bad stuff will get back onto the meat a few hours later when I bring the meat to the table.
To me, this makes zero sense!
Because the same thing applies to washing fruits and vegetables and therefore, if I apply the same logic, I should not wash them either.
What's more, it also applies even if I follow the USDA suggestion and don't wash the meat!! Think about it: If the meat is contaminated, and if it is assumed that I am too incompetent to adequately clean the sink, counter surfaces, utensils and hands before doing something else, then I'm going to create cross contamination no matter whether I wash, or don't wash, my meat and poultry. After all, I have to handle the meat while I cut it, apply a rub, place it on the racks, etc., so the cutting board, countertop and pretty much all the same surfaces will get soiled with meat juice, etc.
So, even though the source for this information is the USDA itself, the advice seems to me to be based on some fatally flawed assumptions.
I think your post is really important, and I'm glad you pointed out the USDA advice, but like so many other things recommended by government agencies, it looks to be not particularly well thought out.
I will continue to wash my meat and poultry, and despite the USDA warning, I'd recommend that other people do so as well.