|MadSci Network: Microbiology|
A very interesting and timely question as food safety becomes more relevant in our lives.
If you throughly cook the chicken you would not have to worry about a Salmonella infection as the heat will kill off the Salmonella.
Placing raw chicken at room temperature for an extended period of time before cooking can be risky. Although Salmonella will be killed once the chicken is cooked there are other bacteria that may contribute to spoilage of the chicken or cause true food poisoning. Some bacteria can grow on raw meat and produce by-products which will spoil the taste of the chicken. Other bacteria such as Stapylococci can produce heat stable toxins which when ingested cause food poisoning. These toxins are not inactivated when the meat is cooked. If proper kitchen hygiene is used the likely-hood of occurrence for these events is rare, but not impossible. The slaughterhouse and subsequent processing of the chicken may introduce hazardous levels of contamination that escape detection after inspection, which could cause a problem if the meat is left at temperature permissive for bacterial growth.
For further information you can contact the USDA meat and poultry hotline at 1-800-535-4555. They should be able to provide information on the proper storage and preparation of raw chicken. Also of interest may be the following two websites: Food Safety and Food Safety at Washington State University. The latter page has some good links.
Hope this helps.
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