CDC Warns People Not to Kiss and Cuddle Their Chickens

Typically public health officials advise against washing raw chicken or thawing meat improperly, to protect against food-borne illnesses. But the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention issued a surprising new warning: don’t kiss your chickens.

This year, more than 1,000 have become sick with Salmonella from 49 states. The CDC discovered that many people became sick after contact with backyard poultry such as chickens and ducklings, following an investigation. In fact, more than 347 people reported contact with chicks or ducklings purchased from agricultural stores, websites, or hatcheries.

This led to a CDC warning that includes tips for decreasing your risk of Salmonella infection. Most of the advice is pretty ordinary: Wash your hands after touching backyard poultry, keep animals outside only, and avoid eating in the environment where your chickens live. But one tip has caught the media’s attention and gone viral: “Don’t kiss backyard poultry or snuggle them and then touch your face or mouth.”

The advice may seem odd, but cuddling your chicken is no weirder than snuggling with your dog for some poultry owners, NPR reported in 2015. At the time, the CDC issued an alert advising against close chicken contact amid another Salmonella scare.

“If they’re used to humans holding them then you can walk in [to the coop] without worrying about are they going to jump or get scared,” chicken owner Elia Mattke told the outlet. “You want to be able to come into the pen to feed them and water them without them starting to fly all around and go crazy.”

Chances are, you’ll contract Salmonella through eating food–unless you’ve got a coop full of chicks. The bacteria is also found in beef, eggs, fruits, pork, sprouts, vegetables, and processed foods, like nut butters, according to the CDC. Decrease your risk of getting sick by separating raw meat and eggs from other items in your refrigerator, and always wash cutting boards, utensils and plates with warm, soapy water. For more food safety tips, visit the CDC.

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