Have you fallen for any of these common food safety myths?
Leftovers are safe to eat unless they smell bad
Smell is NOT an accurate way to determine whether your leftovers have gone bad. Not all bad bacteria create a fowl smell. The FDA food code cites that prepared foods can only be stored for 7 days max.
For more information on how to tell whether your food has gone bad, read our tips on when to throw food out.
Hamburgers are done cooking when the middle is brown
The middle of your hamburger being brown does not mean that your food is thoroughly cooked. The only way to be certain is with a thermometer. Hamburgers should be cooked to 155°F for 17 seconds.
Here is a breakdown of all recommended internal cooking temperatures.
If you are peeling fruits or vegetables, you don’t need to wash them
If you are peeling vegetables or cutting open a melon, you still need to wash it. As you cut or peel, the bacteria from the outside gets on the knife or peeler and carries the pathogens to the edible portion, contaminating it. For that reason, always remember to wash ALL fruits and veggies!
Rinse meat, poultry, or seafood to get rid of bacteria
Typically, washing food removes bacteria. But, rinsing your meat causes bacteria to spread to surfaces and utensils through the juices. Do not wash meat, poultry, or seafood to prevent cross-contamination.
Microwaves kill off bacteria, so the food is safe
In a microwave, the heat is what kills the bacteria, therefore it is not guaranteed that if you microwave food it is safe to eat. If not properly cooked, harmful bacteria can still be present. Even if microwaving, you must cook the food to its minimum safe internal cooking temperature.
Freezing food kills bacteria
You may be under the impression that freezing food kills off bacteria, but that is not the case. Freezing food only slows the growth of pathogenic bacteria. So while freezing food prevents harmful bacteria from multiplying, it does not get rid of what is already present. When it comes to preparing frozen foods, still follow safe food handling procedures.
The 5-second rule
The popular 5-second rule—if food falls on the ground and you pick it up in less than 5 seconds, it’s still good to eat. Sorry, but pathogens can travel to your food and contaminate it faster than that. If you drop food on the ground, either wash it again or throw it out.
Wait for food to cool completely before placing it in the fridge
You don’t actually have to wait for food to cool before putting it in the fridge. In fact, leaving food out at room temperature will leave it in the temperature danger zone for too long, leaving it susceptible to bacteria growth.
We recommend cooling food within 30 minutes. Best practice is to divide food into shallow trays and in smaller portions.
You can defrost food on the kitchen counter
Similar to cooling hot food on the kitchen counter, defrosting food at room temperature leaves it in the temperature danger zone for too long. Instead, you can thaw it in the refrigerator, run under hot water (in the package; remember what we said about rinsing raw meat), or let the meat thaw while cooking.
Cross-contamination doesn’t happen in refrigerators
This myth stems from the false assumption that refrigerators are too cold for bacteria. Bacteria can survive these temperatures, and some can even grow.
To prevent cross-contamination in the refrigerator, clean your refrigerator regularly and follow proper storage practices, such as storing meat on the bottom shelf.