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Don’t Wash Your Chicken!

Chicken in germ-vision.
Chicken in germ-vision.

In 2013, our department had created a series of videos, including a short “Germ-Vision” animation, showing the level of contamination that happens when raw poultry is washed. “Don’t Wash Your Chicken!” was the name of this campaign. The video gained media attention, featured on every news network, the NPR blog, "The Salt," and news affiliates across the country.

Still: some people continue to wash raw chicken before they cook it — a dangerous activity because of the way this spreads foodborne pathogens.

In 2020, Dr. Jennifer Quinlan, Nutrition Science professor at Drexel University and lead principal investigator (PI) on the Don’t Wash Your Chicken project, returned to partner with the Learning Games Lab and the National Partnership for Food Safety Education to continue educating the public with new approaches.

Dr. Quinlan’s research, conducted with Abigail Gillman, PhD, and Shauna Henley, PhD, found that almost 60% of those that continued to wash poultry were open to learning more about health risks and possibly changing their behavior. Additionally, the study revealed key beliefs held by audiences, which informed our campaign:

  • Some are aware of the spread of bacteria, but they feel as though they clean enough afterward. This is unlikely to be possible, because of the spread of aerosolized bacteria, which can travel beyond the sink and land on other surfaces (such as baby bottles drying on the back of the sink, or knife handles stored on the counter).

  • Some choose to wash their poultry because of the slimy substance on it. They don’t realize that this protein can easily be removed with a paper towel, after which they can can wash their hands.

  • Some have learned to rinse their chicken from previous generations – and trust that advice – despite the ways poultry processing has changed

  • Some may not have heard the message at all.

Our goal for this project was to speak to the 60% of people who were open to changing, specifically by addressing these barriers. Through this new campaign we wanted our audience to:

  • Understand that rinsing doesn’t remove pathogens – it spreads them.

  • Understand that the amount of contamination from splatter and aerosolization is invisible and hard to sanitize.

  • Understand that slime/goo is not harmful and that instead of rinsing you can dry the chicken with a paper towel.

  • Know that cooking to 165°F is what kills pathogens.

  • Understand that high risk populations are more susceptible to serious foodborne illnesses.

  • Understand that processed chicken is now pre-rinsed and that habits for washing the chicken were formed in a different time.

This messaging would be distributed on social media to reach these audiences, so it needed to be short, memorable and easy to share. We would then create a landing webpage that would tie the videos and other relevant content in with the social media campaigns.

Flow chart of organizaiton
How the message was organized.

We organized these messages into three key areas: It’s risky, It’s unnecessary and There’s a better way.

  • It’s risky.

    • Washing or rinsing chicken increases risk.

    • How does bacteria on chicken move? How far can it travel?

    • You aren’t cleaning things that have been aerosolized.

    • How would washing/rinsing raw chicken make my family sick?

  • It’s unnecessary.

    • Chicken bought in a grocery store has already been washed.

    • How today’s processes work.

    • What’s on the chicken?

    • Heat kills anything in or on the chicken.

  • There’s a better way.

    • Use a paper towel.

    • Raw chicken and juice should touch as few things as possible.

    • Cook to 165°.

This led to the creation of four animated videos. We followed the following productions steps:

  1. Script While writing the scripts for the four animations, we made sure that we addressed the content as organized above in a concise and entertaining manner.

  2. Storyboard At the storyboard phase, we planned scene transitions as well as making sure that the visuals corresponded with the messaging. At this stage we are able to catch problems such as making sure the distance for aerosolization correctly matches research data.

At this point we also created some concept art that would be used in later stages.

Storyboard sample.
Storyboard sample.

  1. Animatic Animatics are mostly created with still images, but they are useful because we plan timing and see where we need to add new scenes to accommodate narration.

  2. Draft Animation This is when we truly start animating. We further developed the art assets using the concept art as a guide. This phase is more labor intensive, so we often involve other team members to assist in the production of art assets and animations.

  3. Focus Group Testing The animation at this stage looks mostly complete. It has already gone through several review iterations and is ready for focus group testing. We were very fortunate to also work with the Partnership for Food Safety, sometimes referred to as Fight BAC. They advised us throughout the process and even conducted focus group testing with the Fight BAC ambassadors. We asked if: • The videos are clear and easy to understand. • The videos accurately portray food safety practices/scenarios (and asked that they flag any concerns). • The videos provide a good understanding of the "why" behind the guidance.

  4. Animation Final The feedback from the focus group testing helped us further polish the animations and address any problems, such as making sure that we explicitly state that hands are washed after drying raw chicken with a paper towel. Once the scripts are finalized and approved and the animations are professionally voiced, they are ready to be shared.

Once the animations were completed, we worked with our partners at the Partnership for food safety to create the landing page.

Resources Are Now Ready to Share

The Fight Bac! page includes all of the videos below plus a social media toolkit. The social media toolkit, designed by our team’s social media expert, Jeffrey Buras, includes sample messages and images, as well as a list of hashtags and social media channels that can be used by others.

To share this content on your social media, check out our social media toolkit:

Written by Adrian Aguirre, Studio Production Manager, Innovative Media Research & Extension.


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