Yersinia and Chitlins

Woman in kitchenMaking chitlins is a time-honored and tasty tradition for many families, especially during the winter holidays in the South. Chitlins, which are pork intestines and sometimes called chitterlings, can be contaminated with Yersinia enterocolitica and other harmful germs that can make you sick.  

That’s why you should take precautions when you’re making chitlins or another dish that uses pork intestines – or any time you handle raw pork.  

Young children are at high risk for infection. They can become infected when people preparing chitins do not wash their hands carefully before touching children or items children put in their mouths, such as toys, bottles, and pacifiers.  

Follow these food safety tips to help keep you and your family safe while you clean and cook chitlins.  

Getting Ready

  • Keep all children out of the kitchen while you prepare chitlins.
  • Ask someone else to watch infants and other children in your care so that you don’t accidently spread germs from the chitlins to them.
  • Before you begin, take out everything you’ll need to prepare the chitlins and to clean up when you’re done – chopping boards, knives and other utensils, pots and pans, measuring cups and spoons, ingredients and seasonings, bleach solution, paper towels – so you don’t spread germs to other parts of the kitchen after you’ve begun handling the chitlins.
Preparing Chitlins

  • Buy cooked chitlins when possible because these should be safe to handle.
  • Freeze raw chitlins unless you plan to clean and cook them within 2 days.
  • Thaw raw frozen chitlins in the refrigerator in a bowl or bucket completely covered in plastic wrap to prevent drips that can contaminate the refrigerator and items in it. Use raw chitlins within 2 days after thawing them.
  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before preparing chitlins.
  • Boil raw chitlins in water for at least 5 minutes before cleaning to reduce germs that may get on your hands and counter while you are cleaning the chitlins.
  • Boil and simmer chitlins until well cooked and tender before serving.
Cleaning Up

  • Use a solution of 1 tablespoon bleach to 1 gallon of water to wash anywhere raw chitlins, their juice, or your hands touched.
    • These items may include chopping boards, knives and other utensils, refrigerator (including shelves, doors, and handles), countertop, stovetop (including knobs and switches), outside of cabinets and drawers (and their handles), dishwasher front, sink (including the basin, drain, handles, and spout), floor, light switches.
    • Pots, pans, lids, buckets and utensils can be washed on the hot cycle of the dishwasher or by hand in hot water.
    • Consider using paper towels to clean. If you use cloth towels, wash them on the hot cycle in the dishwasher or washing machine.
  • Flood the surface with the bleach solution and allow it to stand for several minutes. Then rinse with plain water and let it air dry or pat it dry with paper towels.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before preparing any other food or touching children or their toys, bottles, or pacifiers.