You may have tried eating sashimi or steak tartare.
But what about torisashi: raw chicken?
The dish has been available in Japan for some time.
Now, it’s on menus in some restaurants in the United States.
But experts are warning eating raw chicken may not be the best idea.
“Regardless of whether it’s part of the Paleo craze or haute cuisine, this new trend is dangerous,” Lauri Wright, PhD, an assistant professor in public health at the University of South Florida, told Healthline.
“Chicken is considered one of the top foods for food poisoning,” Wright explained. “Eating raw chicken only increases your risk for Salmonella and Campylobacter bacteria. There is no safe raw chicken.”
Food poisoning is common
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 6 Americans, or 48 million people, become sick due to foodborne illness every year.
Of these, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die.
Slightly more than 1 million people are infected with Salmonella annually and more than 800,000 are infected with Campylobacter bacteria.
“While foodborne illness can be more misery than life-ending, it can put some individuals in the hospital and cause more dangerous outcomes, especially for the very young, older adults, and pregnant women,” Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD, a licensed registered dietitian who is wellness manager at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute, told Healthline.
Most people who experience food poisoning will recover without any lasting effects. However, some may go on to develop more serious complications such as kidney failure, chronic arthritis, and brain and nerve damage.
Dr. Tamika Sim, the director of Food Technology Communications at the International Food Information Council Foundation, says eating raw chicken is simply not worth the risk.
“Once you eat raw chicken, which can contain foodborne illness-causing bacteria, the body will mount an immune response — basically, special cells in your body will fight the bacteria to kill them off and try to prevent them from multiplying or spreading harmful toxins,” Sim told Healthline. “Symptoms of foodborne illness can vary from person to person, but usually it’s associated with nausea, stomach cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting (and dehydration in many cases).”
Warnings may not be enough
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Food Code, any restaurant serving raw meat, seafood, or eggs must include a warning about such foods somewhere on the menu.
But Dana Hunnes, PhD, a senior dietitian at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, says even with such warnings the practice may be dangerous.
“If there is a risk to serving raw chicken to the health of either customers or food-service employees, then this food item should not be served,” Hunnes told Healthline. “We live in a highly litigious society, and the spread of foodborne disease could potentially lead to major lawsuits if proper care is not taken.”
“Given what I know and teach patients about food safety, I am definitely shocked by this new development,” she added. “I think the potential negative health effects of eating raw chicken far outweigh any potential benefit or enjoyment from eating it.”
According to the CDC, Americans eat more chicken every year than any other meat. One million people a year become ill due to eating contaminated poultry.
To prevent illness, the FDA advises people handling raw chicken to follow the basic steps of “clean, separate, and cook.”
Clean your hands before and after handling raw chicken, to avoid cross contamination.
Use a dedicated chopping board and knife to cut up chicken and don’t then use them to cut up other things. Keep raw chicken and any juices from raw chicken away from other foods in the refrigerator.
Cook chicken so the internal temperature is a minimum 165°F.
If you like your steak rare or enjoy steak tartare, made from raw beef, you may also want to rethink your food choices.
“Meat needs to reach 145° [Fahrenheit] internally and stand for three or more minutes before cutting or consuming,” Wright said. “Unfortunately, even if preferred by foodies, there’s no way to guarantee the safety of rare meat. That also means raw meat delights, like steak tartare or beef carpaccio, are not considered safe.”
Having spent her career educating others about nutrition and food safety, Wright has seen food trends come and go.
But the practice of eating raw chicken has her bewildered.
“Food and diet fads don't surprise me anymore, and this fad makes me angry for consumers,” she said. “From a food safety standpoint, I feel this is very irresponsible. This practice places people at increased risk for illness.”