Does raw chicken give you salmonella?

 

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As you probably know, a relatively typical food in Japan is sushi, i.e. raw (or cooked) pieces of fish with rice. Japanese often also omit the rice and have the raw pieces of fish on their own. This is called sashimi.

Consuming raw fish is by no means unique to Japan. For instance, people in Scandinavia have Gravlax – salted raw salmon with dill, white pepper and sugar.

But what I think is rather unique to Japan is that not only do Japanese people have sashimi, they also commonly have tori no sashimi. To you and me, that’s raw chicken.

When I say raw chicken, I really mean raw, uncooked, chicken that has experienced no higher temperatures than that of the typical Japanese summer when the chicken was flapping around (hopefully) in the fields of a free-range farm. See photo of my half eaten plateful below.

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If you are European, American or Australian, I know what you are thinking:

‘Are you insane!? You should not have chicken unless it is thoroughly cooked!’

At a young age, us Westerners learn to avoid touching raw chicken or its juices and not to eat chicken unless it’s thoroughly cooked, or maybe more accurately: burned to a crisp. I feel that raw chicken is a bit like spiders, needles, clowns or heights – many people borderline on hysterics/phobia when encountering those.

For instance, me sinking my teeth into an uncooked chicken burger in McDonalds while on holiday in Prague 20 years ago made me storm out of the ‘restaurant’, jump into a taxi, rev back to our hotel and gurgle down half a bottle of Stroh Rum in my room. In case any of you are not familiar with these types of primitive forms of disinfection, my aim was to kill any potential salmonella bugs in my mouth/stomach with the alcohol. I am not quite sure whether or not it worked – you see, I don’t know whether it was the Stroh or salmonella that gave me a horrific headache the following day… In any case, the little anecdote above exemplifies what a typical Westerner’s reaction to raw chicken is (or maybe my reaction is not representative of your typical Westerner… Well, maybe my slight overreaction with the raw chicken is counterbalanced by my lack of fear of spiders, needles, clowns or heights, although, if offered, I wouldn’t turn away a gulp of Stroh even in non-scary situations).

The first time I had tori no sashimi (raw chicken) in Japan, I was as worried as British pigs during Eton boys’ countryside excursions. And so I carefully observed my bodily functions for a couple of days, expecting vomiting, diarrhea, fever, things associated with salmonella – but nothing. That encouraged me to have raw chicken again, and again – and, at least so far, I’ve escaped salmonella.

I don’t know what the exact stats are on salmonella in chicken, say, in England relative to Japan – nor does anyone care, I presume, but my personal experience of tori no sashimi and the fact that it is commonly consumed over here (by all apart from maybe babies and small infants) indicates that salmonella is somehow better managed in Japan than in many other countries.

In conclusion, living in Japan has taught me that raw chicken can be safe to eat, that raw chicken does not necessarily give you salmonella. However, please do not take this as me suggesting that you should head to your nearest Tesco and demolish a packet of uncooked chicken drumsticks in the Tesco foyer (partly because the chances are you would contract salmonella and partly because the Tesco staff would probably report you to local authorities as a health and safety hazard). Instead, if you ever visit Japan, consider trying tori no sashimi. It’s dee-licious and the chances are you will not need to accompany it with Stroh.

14 thoughts on “Does raw chicken give you salmonella?

  1. Kovasti miettisin jos söisin. Yleensäkin raakaa mitä vaan. Mutta japanilainen keittiö tuntui hyvin puhtaalta ja siistiltä, joten se varmasti on myös jonkinlainen tae puhtaasta ruosta. Mainio kuva ruokailijasta! Hong Kongissa onneksi löysin ahtääkärsivaistenkanslian, kun sitä äkkinäisesti tarvitsin. Huh.

    • Ihan totta – Japanin keittiöt ovat usein todella puhtaita. Täällä ei myöskään suvaita virheitä (missään asiassa), ja virheiden tekeminen on suuri häpeä. Jos ravintola antaa asiakkaalle salmonellan joutuu se luultavimmin lopettamaan toimintansa heti sen jälkeen häpäisyn leimaamina. Täällä ravintolat siis tuskin tarjoavat vanhaa tai epämääräistä kanaa (tai mitään ruokaa) hällävälimeiningillä kuten joissain muissa maissa.

      Kiitos kuva kommentista 🙂

  2. Vaatisi varmasti aika paljon, että pääsisin pelkotiloistani yli. Salmonella on kuulunut sanavarastooni jo aika pienestä, mutta amerikkalainen mieheni se vasta kanamehua kammoksuukin. Niin paljon, että pesee raa-an kanan ennen käsittelyä (minkä jälkeen minä pesen keittiön lavuaarin ja työtasot….). USA:n tehokanantuotanto on tehnyt salmonellatilanteesta aika vakavastiotettavan, mutta siltikin pelkään mielummin salmonellaa kuin syön antibiotti-/ hormoonikanoja. En tosin epäile yhtään etteikö Japanissa esiintyisi vähemmän salmonellaa tai etteikö raaka kana voisi olla herkullista. Saatanpa siis hyvin maistaakin, jos koskaan (toivottavasti) sinne päädyn :).

    • Kyllä se meistäkin aika kummalliselta alkuun tuntui syödä jotain mitä oli vuosikymmeniä tarkoituksella vältellyt mahataudin pelossa. Pikkuhiljaa olemme oppineet että ei raaka kana (tai kananmuna) välttämättä tarkoita salmonellaa, eikä enää niin pelota raa’an kanan syönti.

      Joo, maista ihmeessä jos tulet joskus Japaniin! Jos tykkäät raa’asta kalasta (esim. sushissa tai graavilohesta) tykkäät varmaan myös raa’asta kanasta 🙂

  3. En söisi edes kypsennettynä, eka ajatus oli yök 😛 Edellisessä elämässä jos olisin raakaa kanaa syönyt niin se olisi varmasti jäänyt mieleen kummittelemaan ja kaikki mahdolliset oireet olisivat varmaan johtuneet siitä kanasta.

  4. Itsellänikin ensimmäinen ajatus oli, ‘eihän tuota voi syödä!’ Kyllä kasvatus ja kulttuuri muokkaavat ihmistä nii-in paljon, mutta jos kerran paikalliset syövät jotakin herkkuna ilman ongelmia, kyllähän se on silloin ok. Ehkei oma kroppa vain aina ihan heti tule sinuiksi uusien ruokien kanssa. Nykyisin en enää syö lihaa – en tiedä, kokeilisinko raakaa kanaa, jos söisin. .. 🙂

    • Joo, minunkin ensimmäinen ajatus oli ‘Ei tuota voi eikä saa, syödä!’ 🙂 mutta kun huomasin että täällä raakaa kanaa syödään kuin graavilohta Suomessa, niin uskalsin kokeilla. Ja hengissä ollaan 🙂

  5. I’ve heard about the raw chicken and yes, I would definitely eat in Japan but probably nowhere else! Love the Stroh part of your story! Funnily enough it made me think of a drink – after all, it is Saturday night 🙂 I’ve nominated your blog in #blogisitarina challenge, go check sannankupla.com !

    • Thanks for your comment – nice to hear your liked the Stroh story. I hope you didn’t ‘gurgle down’ too much Stroh (or any other alcohol) last night and end up with a terrible headache today. 🙂

      And thanks very much for nominating my blog for #blogisitarina challenge.

  6. Germans eat raw beef mince (on bread, of course). It never occurred to me that I was eating raw meat until my wife pointed it out to me. Still alive and well (but wouldn’t eat that outside Germany).

    • Yeah, I think steak tartare is relatively common in England as well. As a Finn, it’s not something on the list of my favourite things, although I do have my steak medium or rare.

      I think chicken in particular has a bad reputation in Europe/America (for a reason!) and no one in their right mind would have their chicken medium/rare. In Japan we have it raw 🙂

  7. Not only raw chicken but also raw eggs! As a Japanese guy living in the US for 10 years, raw egg over rice is the taste of home country I am missing and craving for…

    • Yeah, true 🙂 Raw egg with rice is really common in Japan!

      During our first couple of weeks in Japan, we went to a canteen type restaurant for lunch. We chose a lot of different types of foods from the counter, including, what we thought was a hard boiled egg for the kids. It caused a bit of a mess when we cracked that uncooked egg open 😀 but we learned our lesson 😀

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