Food Safety Myths
Myth: If I’m going to peel my fruit, like a melon, or my vegetable, like a squash, I don’t need to wash them.
Fact: Since it’s easy to transfer bacteria from the peel or rind when you’re cutting your fruits and veggies, it’s important to wash all produce, even if you plan to peel it.
Think about it a melon . . . a knife cutting through the rind can spread pathogens from the outside into the inside flesh. The rind can also touch the edible portion when fruit is arranged for serving. Be safe and rinse your melon under running tap water while rubbing by hand or scrubbing with a clean brush. Dry the melon with a clean cloth or paper towel.
Myth: I should wash my fruits and veggies with soap or detergent before using them.
Fact: It’s best not to use soaps or detergents on produce, since these products can stay on foods and are not safe for you to eat. Using clean running water is the best way to remove bacteria and wash produce safely.
Myth: If I microwave my food, the microwaves kill the bacteria, so the food is safe to eat.
Fact: Microwaves aren’t what kill bacteria – it’s the heat generated by microwaves that kills bacteria in foods. But, you need to be sure that the food is heated to a safe internal temperature. Check the temperature of microwaved foods with a food thermometer in several spots to be sure it’s properly cooked.
Microwaved foods often cook unevenly because they may be shaped irregularly or vary in thickness. Even microwaves with turntables cook unevenly and leave cold spots in food, where harmful bacteria can survive. Be sure to follow food package instructions.
Myth: The best way to check the temperature of my barbecued burgers and chicken breasts is to stick the thermometer in the top.
Fact: To check the temperature of burger or chicken breast that you are cooking on the barbecue:
- take it off the grill and place it in a clean plate
- insert the digital food thermometer through the thickest part of the meat
- for burgers and chicken breasts you should insert the digital food thermometer through the side of the patty or chicken breast, all the way to the middle. Make sure to check each piece because heat can be uneven.
Myth: I just played with the cat and the dog for a few minutes so I don’t need to wash my hands.
Fact: You need to have clean hands before you start touching food. Wash your hands with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food, using the washroom and changing diapers.
Myth: You only need to stop kids from eating raw cookie dough, adults can eat it.
Fact: No one should eat raw cookie dough because it could make you sick. Bake your cookies first, then enjoy.
Myth: If your leftovers look and smell ok they are safe to eat.
Fact: The kinds of bacteria that cause food poisoning do not affect the look, smell or taste of food. This is why it's important to freeze or toss refrigerated leftovers within 3-4 days. If you are unsure of how long your leftovers have been sitting in the refrigerator, don’t take the risk – when in doubt, throw it out!
Myth: Marinades are acidic, which kills bacteria—so it’s OK to marinate foods on the counter.
Fact: Bacteria can grow very rapidly at room temperatures even if your food is in an acidic marinade. To marinate foods safely, it’s important to marinate them in the refrigerator.
Myth: Once food is cooked, all the bacteria have been killed, so I don’t need to worry about food safety.
Fact: Perishable foods should be put in a refrigerator that’s 4 degrees C or below within 2 hours of preparation. Keep foods out of the danger zone, between 4°C (40°F) and 60°C (140°F) to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.
Myth: Freezing food kills harmful bacteria that can cause foodborne illness.
Fact: While freezing your food extends shelf life and temporarily stops the growth of microorganisms, bacteria can survive freezing temperatures.
Freezing is not a method for making food safe to eat. When food is thawed, bacteria can still be present and may begin to multiply. Cooking food to the proper internal temperature is the best way to kill harmful bacteria. Be sure to use a food thermometer to check the temperature of the food.
Myth: To get rid of any bacteria on my raw meat, poultry, or seafood, I should rinse them with water.
Fact: Rinsing meat, poultry, or seafood can increase your chance of foodborne illness by splashing raw juices onto your sink and counters. The best way to cook meat, poultry, or seafood safely is to make sure you cook it to the right temperature.
Myth: If you drop food on the floor and pick it up within ‘five seconds’, it's safe to eat.
Fact: The ‘five-second rule’ is false. Most floors have dirt and bacteria on them. Once your food has fallen on the floor bacteria is instantly on it. The bottom line is: don’t eat food that has fallen on the floor.
Myth: I can re-use the same plate for my raw hamburgers once I’ve cooked them.
Fact: Don’t use the same plates for raw and cooked meat, poultry, fish or seafood. Prevent cross-contamination and always place cooked food on a clean plate.
Myth: The best place to defrost my raw meat in on the top shelf of the fridge.
Fact: Defrosting in the refrigerator is the safest way to defrost. Just be sure to place the meat in a clean container that will hold any juices leaking out of the food. Then, put it on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator to prevent accidental cross-contamination of other food.
(External link: Health Canada)