What Happens If... You Eat Raw Chicken?

You'd better cook that bird all the way through.
Alex Walker via Getty Images

Chicken is not like beef or sushi, OK? You’re really not supposed to eat it raw.

Medium-rare steak is hardcore, ceviche is sophisticated, and sushi is just plain fashionable, but there’s a reason why raw chicken is not – and never will be – a popular menu option.

Plenty of people have also feared that they’re accidentally eating raw chicken (masquerading as cooked chicken) as they should. Even slightly undercooked chicken could make you seriously ill.

That’s because there’s a high risk of food poisoning if you eat the bird (or its juice) raw, as it may be be contaminated with many different types of bacteria.

Most will trigger:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Abdominal cramps

The NHS website also lists a high temperature of 38C or above and generally feeling unwell (fatigue, aches and chills) as signs you’ve got food poisoning.

According to Women’s Health, if the chicken in question has campylobacter bacteria, you might have between two to five days before symptoms start to present themselves – the infection might then stay for a week.

Salmonella is also a risk – the US’s Food and Drug Administration says about 1 in every 25 packs of chicken at the grocery store can contain the bacteria. It usually sets in around six hours after eating.

If your chicken may also have a bacteria called clostridium perfringens, the infection might kick in between six and 24 hours after swallowing the meat, but should usually last for less than a full day, according to the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.

And that’s not all.

Your undercooked meal could give you E.Coli too, although that’s possible eating raw fruit or veggies and undercooked beef as well. This usually incubates for three to four business days before making itself...known. Symptoms usually last between five to 10 days.

Sadly, nothing can help you once you’ve eaten the raw meat. Drinking water or rinsing your mouth won’t undo it, and neither will forcing yourself to be sick.

So, the best thing to do is to pick up a bland diet and stay hydrated with water and electrolyte drinks until the symptoms subside – which in most cases, it does.

It usually disappears within a week, but sometimes the infection can worsen into blood diarrhoea and a high fever. If this is the case, or you’re pregnant or immunocompromised, speak to your doctor.

Experiencing signs of dehydration means you should probably speak to your GP too.

To avoid food poisoning, it’s always best to make sure cooked chicken is white in colour. Signs of being undercooked will be clear because it will be pink or bloody. Even if the juice coming out of the chicken is pink, it’s probably still raw.

You can also use a thermometer to check the chicken is the perfect temperature of 75C in the centre.

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