A debate as old as time has had those in the kitchen begging the question: Should I wash my raw poultry?

Just because Grandma swears it’s the secret to her flawless turkey preparation, scientific evidence suggests washing poultry may not be the safest practice to pass down through the family recipes.

In a recent study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), an alarming 60 percent of participants who washed their raw poultry had bacteria in their sink after washing or rinsing the poultry. And to add more concern, 14 percent still had bacteria in their sinks after they attempted to clean the sink. Plus, 26 percent of participants who washed raw poultry while cooking transferred bacteria from the product to their prepared salad lettuce.

According to Dr. Mindy Brashears, USDA’s Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety, “small changes in the kitchen can lead to big health benefits for you and your family. Not washing meat and poultry reduces your risk of cross-contamination and can keep your family safe from foodborne illness.”

It’s always good to keep in mind that just because you can’t see it, that doesn’t mean bacteria is not there. Mindful steps in the kitchen such as careful handwashing and sanitizing your cooking station can help crack down on the possibility of foodborne illnesses, which can be especially hazardous for children, older adults and those with compromised immune systems.

USDA recommends three steps to ensure your food is not only delicious, but also safe to eat:

  1. Prepare foods that will not be cooked, such as vegetables and salads, BEFORE handling and preparing raw meat and poultry.
  2. Clean and sanitize ANY surface that has potentially touched or been contaminated from raw meat and poultry, or their juices. This includes thorough handwashing.
  3. Cook meat and poultry to a safe internal temperature as measured by a food thermometer. For ground or whole turkey products, the safe internal temperature is 165°F.

Simple steps can help keep your family healthy in the kitchen. Our best advice, based on consumer science data, is to just forgo giving that turkey a bath. Proper cooking and handling is the best way to make sure your food is safe and ready to eat.