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Washing hands and risk of cross-contamination during chicken preparation among domestic practitioners in five European countries

Didier, Pierrine; Nguyen-The, Christophe; Martens, Lydia; Foden, Mike; Dumitrascu, Loredana; Octavian Mihalache, Augustin; Ioana Nicolau, Anca; Skuland, Silje Elisabeth; Truninger, Monica; Junqueira, Luís; Maitre, Isabelle

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Pierrine Didier

Christophe Nguyen-The

Mike Foden

Loredana Dumitrascu

Augustin Octavian Mihalache

Anca Ioana Nicolau

Silje Elisabeth Skuland

Monica Truninger

Luís Junqueira

Isabelle Maitre


Nearly 40% foodborne outbreaks in the European Union are attributable to food practices in domestic homes that include handling and preparation of raw chicken. Hand washing is an important way to prevent cross-contamination with pathogens during chicken preparation. This study, which is part of the EU Horizon 2020 funded consortium SafeConsume, aimed at quantifying and understanding hand washing practices in three categories of households and five European countries. A quantitative survey (n = 1889) was combined with qualitative research, during which 75 participants from France, Norway, Portugal, Romania, and the United Kingdom were observed and interviewed. An original method for analysing video with “The Observer XT” software was developed to identify when and how risk arises. The quantitative survey and qualitative research data revealed that touching raw chicken was more frequent in Romania and Portugal. Practices to avoid touching raw chicken were declared and observed, although observations revealed that these practices were not always consistently followed. Only a third of the participants washed their hands with soap after handling raw chicken with important variations among countries (a majority in Norway and in the UK, a few in France and Portugal, none in Romania), in contrast to the results of the survey. Observations and interviews suggested that rinsing hands with water only and washing hands with soap are considered equivalent by many people. Barriers to washing hands due to improper equipment were mainly observed in Romania. Washing hands after touching raw chicken was motivated by food safety concerns for some participants in Norway and the UK, but not in France and Portugal, where it was motivated by unpleasant feelings on hands, or presented as a habit. Participants not washing their hands after touching the chicken did it after other actions they presumably perceived as unsafe (e.g. touching the bin, handling pets, and blowing the nose), indicating that they did not specifically consider touching raw chicken as risky. Knowledge, habits, and equipment with regard to chicken and hand washing differed among European countries, resulting in safe and risky practices.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 4, 2021
Publication Date Sep 1, 2021
Journal Food Control
Print ISSN 0956-7135
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 127
Article Number 108062
Pages 1-8
Keywords Consumer; Kitchen; Food safety; Soap; Habits; Practices
Publisher URL


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