Chicken, an easily available, low-cost food, is relished around the world in different cuisines, so people are constantly creating new ways of using this quick-cooking protein. Chicken also finds favor with fitness freaks because of its lower fat and higher protein ratio in comparison to other meats.
However, while some foods can be eaten raw or after just a little bit of cooking time (such as vegetables, fruit, and certain fish), eating raw chicken can cause problems.
You may not be aware of the fact that microorganisms are present within all living beings. Some of them are known as pathogens and can cause serious illnesses. A small number of these pathogens are usually found in chicken, and this article will give more information about what will happen if you eat raw chicken.
What Makes Raw Chicken Unsafe?
The two pathogens commonly found on raw chicken are salmonella and campylobacter. Salmonella bacteria usually live in the gut of chickens and infect the intestinal tract in humans, while campylobacter infection occurs when a chicken comes into contact with animal feces. Some other pathogens include Staphylococcus aureus, E. coli, Enterococcus, and Klebsiella.
What Will Happen When You Eat Raw Chicken?
1. Common symptoms
Eating raw or uncooked chicken infected with these microorganisms can lead to food poisoning. Some indicators that you are possibly infected by these pathogens are abdominal cramps, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, fever, headache, and muscle pain.
If the infection is caused by the Salmonella bacteria, the symptoms that you would commonly experience are food poisoning, typhoid fever, enteric fever, gastroenteritis, and other illnesses. In the case of Campylobacter infection, bloody diarrhea is the first symptom that is normally observed, while in Salmonella, the diarrhea is usually very liquid.
Most cases of food poisoning are not serious, and people get better in a few days without any long-term effects. However, there can be a few exceptions. Children, older adults, and pregnant women especially need to be very cautious and should only consume chicken that is properly cooked as they are at higher risk of contracting food poisoning and developing complications.
2. Life-threatening complications
What happens if you eat raw chicken is you stand a higher risk of getting infected with bacteria from the gut, skin, and feet of the birds. Sometimes, what starts out as a simple case of food poisoning may lead to bigger medical issues, some of which are listed below.:
Bacteremia is a medical condition that occurs after bacteria enter the blood and passes into the other organs of the body. Individuals with weak immunity and those who take medication to fight acidity are generally more prone to developing bacteremia.
- Guillain-Barré syndrome
Campylobacter infection can lead to a rare disorder called Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) where the immune system meant to fight bacteria attacks the body's healthy nerve cells as well. GBS can cause temporary paralysis or total paralysis in severe cases.
- Reactive arthritis
Campylobacter infection can also cause reactive arthritis which presents as inflammation of the joints, eyes, urinary system, and reproductive organs.
In rare cases, severe complications such as kidney failure, chronic arthritis, and brain and nerve damage may also occur.
If you suffer from food poisoning, you don't need to panic as most cases are not very serious and people generally feel better after a few hours without any treatment. As you will have a general feeling of weakness, try to rest as much as you can during this time, and make sure to drink a lot of clear fluids such as water, broth, or an electrolyte beverage to avoid getting dehydrated as a result of the loss of fluids from diarrhea. Pay special attention to personal hygiene and overall cleaning as the bacteria can spread through physical contact.
If you do not recover after a few days, you should visit your doctor who may prescribe antibiotics for faster recovery. If there is no improvement in your condition even after taking the antibiotics or you find any symptoms of the life-threatening complications above, hospitalization may be necessary. GBS cannot be cured, but treatment can definitely reduce and treat complications, leading to faster healing.
Certain safety measures should be followed when it comes to storing and cooking chicken. And please remember to always wash your hands before handling raw chicken.
When storing raw chicken in the refrigerator, keep it in a separate bag at 0–5°C and make sure it does not touch other foods to avoid cross-contamination.
You should follow the instructions that are given on the package label and consume it before the "use by" date on the label. Leftover chicken should be refrigerated within one hour to slow the growth of microorganisms, and it should be consumed as soon as possible.
Keep a separate chopping board and knife to use with raw chicken. All the equipment and kitchen countertop are used for preparing the chicken should be thoroughly washed with soap and hot water.
Chicken should be cooked properly to a minimum internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) so any pathogens present on it are killed.
Though a large quantity of raw poultry is infected with Salmonella and Campylobacter bacteria, you can avoid the ill effects like food poisoning if you store, prepare, and cook the meat properly.
If you do fall sick following chicken consumption, you should get plenty of rest and drink a lot of water or other clear fluids. Also, make sure to see your doctor if your symptoms continue or get worse after a few days.