Risk at a Glance

(Chicken) Rice To Meat You!


Did you know that Hainanese Chicken Rice is one of Singapore’s most iconic dishes? 

However, chicken rice also ranks top in a less savoury ranking – with higher levels of E. coli bacteria compared to other types of retail cooked foods in Singapore. In a survey, SFA found nearly 40% of chicken rice samples tested to have exceeded our regulatory limits for E. coli bacteria in ready-to-eat food.


Photo credit: Freepik

This article informs the common food safety hazards in chicken and food safety tips so you can enjoy them safely.

What are the food safety hazards in chicken rice?

The common food safety hazards associated with chicken or chicken rice are mostly microbiological, such as Salmonella and Campylobacter. These bacteria, which cause food poisoning, can be found in the raw chicken naturally. E. coli is commonly used as an indicator for food safety as the presence of high levels of E. coli is linked to poor hygiene, cross-contamination, poor storage practices and insufficient cooking. 

The common preparation method of gently boiling the chicken in stock and quickly quenching in ice or tap water can lead to undercooking, where bacteria can continue to survive. After cooking, the chickens are often hung up for display at room temperature over an extended period, which promotes bacteria growth.

Good Food Safety Practices

Mishandling of food, especially during preparation is one of the leading causes of food-borne illnesses, or food poisoning. 

Here are some tips when buying meat

  • When buying meat, make sure it does not appear stale or have off odours.

  • Buy only meat or poultry that has been stored at the right refrigerated conditions. Do not buy chilled or frozen meat or poultry that is displayed for retail at room temperature.

  • Do not buy meat or poultry in packaging that is leaking or torn.

  • Ensure that there is no excessive moisture on the surface of meat or poultry. It shows that the food items have not been handled properly.

  • Go home straight away after buying meat so that it will not be left un-refrigerated for too long.

Here are some tips for preparing and cooking food

  • Keep raw food in separate bags away from cooked and ready-to-eat food while shopping.

  • Wash knives and cutting boards between uses, especially when working with raw and cooked food. Where possible, use separate cutting boards for raw and cooked food.

  • Wash knives thoroughly especially after cutting raw meat, seafood and poultry, before cutting other food.

  • Use different serving plates for raw and cooked food. If you use the same plate, wash between uses.

  • Place raw food in tightly wrapped plastic bags or covered containers in the refrigerator to prevent raw food juices from dripping on to other food.

  • Place dry food above wet food to prevent juices from contaminating the dry food.

Read more on Good Food Safety Practices 


About the Author

Herman Teo is a Senior Scientist from the Risk Assessment and Communications Department of the National Centre for Food Science. With a Masters in Food Science and Human Nutrition from the National University of Singapore, his recent work includes the regulatory framework for insects for food and feed, and examining emerging food processing risks.