What’s your first thought when you get food poisoning? Probably something along the lines of, “I must’ve gotten this from the [insert recently eaten meal] that I ate at [insert recently visited restaurant]!” One of the biggest myths that people believe about food safety is that they get it from eating out. While you are at a higher risk when eating out, it can happen in your own kitchen. As we celebrate Food Safety Education Month in September, here are some of the top myths about food safety in the home and the real truth.
Myth #1: You don’t need to clean the produce bin in your refrigerator because it only holds fruit and vegetables.
Truth: The produce bin is one of the “germiest” areas in home kitchens. Naturally occurring bacteria in fresh fruits and vegetables can transfer from one food to another, causing cross-contamination. To prevent illness and cross-contamination, clean your produce bin, and other bins, in your refrigerator frequently with hot water and liquid soap. Rinse thoroughly and dry with a clean, cloth towel or air-dry before returning it to the refrigerator.
Myth #2: Rinsing chicken with water, salt, vinegar, or lemon/lime juice will remove harmful bacteria, like Salmonella and Campylobacter.
Truth: Washing raw chicken (or any other poultry) can actually spread raw juices that contain bacteria to areas in and around your sink, countertops and any food sitting on the countertops. Don’t wash your chicken! Any bacteria in raw chicken is killed when the chicken is cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165°F, measured with a food thermometer.
Myth #3: Microwaves will kill the harmful bacteria, making my food safe to eat.
Truth: The wavelength emitted from a microwave will not kill the bacteria found in your food. The heat generated by the microwaves can kill bacteria—if it reaches a high enough temperature—but bacteria can still survive in “cold spots” from uneven cooking. Ensure an even-cook by rotating and stirring foods while warming them up, even when using a microwave with a turntable.
Did you know that your food is still cooking after the microwave goes off? Follow microwave directions on processed foods, including the “standing” times to allow the food to cook completely. Check the internal temperature in several spots with a food thermometer to be sure it is cooked thoroughly.
Myth #4: If the food does not look or smell bad, then it is safe to eat.
Truth: Many of the bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses may not affect the taste, smell or appearance of the food. If you are not sure if something is safe to eat, follow the mantra: “If in doubt, throw it out”. It is better to be safe than sorry. Make it a general rule to keep leftovers no more than 4 days in your refrigerator.