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Escherichia coli (E. coli) is a bacteria that may cause serious food poisoning.
So it is somewhat alarming when YouTuber Angel Hsu tested chicken rice from 100 stalls in Singapore and found the food from 45 stalls contained more E. Coli than it should.
The Singapore Food Agency (SFA) states that the amount of E. coli must be less than 100 colony forming units per gram (CFU/g).
But Hsu, who has a master's in public health, discovered that the chicken rice from four stalls has an E. coli count of over 490,000 CFU/g, which is almost five thousand times allowed by SFA.
The names and addresses of these and the other 96 stalls she tested as well as other info can be found on a Google sheet she created online.
Food blogger Leslie Tay of ieatishoootipost, who is also a doctor, pointed out that SFA itself found in a 2021 survey that nearly 40 per cent of chicken rice samples tested exceeded its regulatory limits for E. coli in ready-to-eat food.
He wrote in a post on Wednesday (June 7): "The fact that raw chicken carries E. coli is well known, which is why chicken has to be cooked properly.
"However, we all know that Hainanese chicken cannot be overcooked and after cooking is soaked in cold water and then hung for hours at ambient temperature.
"The risk of cross-infection from raw chicken to cooked chicken is very high since hawker stalls are all such small spaces.
"I suspect that the problem lies in the soaking water. If the inside of the chicken is not cooked properly, the surviving E. coli will get transferred to the soaking water which will in turn spread to all the other birds soaking in the water.
"The E. coli will then start multiplying as the chicken is hung at ambient temperature. The longer the chicken hangs at room temperature, the higher the risk.
"So my advice is to eat chicken rice for lunch when they have just been cooked rather than dinner when the chicken has been left hanging for a longer period of time."
Angel Hsu ate the chicken rice from 100 stalls in Singapore to find the best one but at the same time she also found...
On Friday (June 9), the SFA said pretty much the same thing in a Facebook post: "The common preparation method of gently boiling the chicken in stock and quickly quenching the cooked chicken in ice or tap water can lead to undercooking, where bacteria can continue to survive. Hanging cooked chickens for display at room temperature over an extended period also promotes bacteria growth.
"SFA has thus advised chicken rice stallholders to adhere to good food handling practices such as replacing the ice/water bath used to chill cooked chicken frequently, as well as cook the chicken in batches so that they are not left hanging for display over an extended period.
"SFA also regularly conducts monitoring of chicken rice stalls as part of our market monitoring program, with enforcement actions taken in the past against chicken rice stalls found to have failed our food safety limits.
"Our surveillance in recent years shows that the rate of failure due to E.coli detections in chicken rice samples have decreased. SFA will continue to engage and remind the chicken rice stallholders on good food safety practices and monitor these stalls to ensure that food safety requirements are met.
"So, can we still eat our favourite chicken rice? Yes, as long as good food safety practices are adhered to. It is best to eat chicken rice when the chickens are freshly prepared and ensure that your favourite chicken parts are thoroughly cooked."