Top 10 Food Safety Myths

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.

September is Food Safety Education Month!

This month, take time to learn more about food safety and spread awareness of the dangers of foodborne illnesses.

Every year, an estimated 1 in 6 Americans acquire a foodborne illness. That is about 48 million people! Of those people, around 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 lose their life—all because of contaminated food.

That’s why food safety education is important this month, and every month after!

September serves as a reminder to review and educate yourself on food safety. To help, all month long, we will be taking to our social media to share information on preventing foodborne illnesses. Take a look and share any posts you think may be helpful to others from our Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

Another helpful resource is our blog. Here are some links to learn more about food safety:

To learn even more about food safety, take a look at our Food Protection Manager, Food Handler, and Allergen Awareness training.

Avoiding Hidden Allergens

Living with a food allergy is already hard enough, but it gets even harder considering allergens can be hiding in other ingredients or foods.

As those working in the food industry, it is our responsibility to protect those suffering with a food allergy, and one concept vital to that is recognizing hidden allergens.

Here, we will be going over the importance of checking the label and knowing what goes into dishes, as well as go over specific foods to watch out for.

Checking the Label

The most important thing to do when trying to avoid an allergen is to check the label carefully. The USDA requires that the 8 major food allergens be listed in plain English on the label.

Labels will also mention if there could be traces of a certain allergen or if it was produced at the same facility as one.

Allergens can also go by different names, making it even harder for those suffering with food allergies. It is important to be familiar with some of the common names for major food allergens.

Get Familiar with Your Menu

Know what goes into the dishes on your menu, so that if a customer asks, you can give them an educated answer. At least be aware if one of the 8 main allergens is present.

If you are unsure, ask someone else, even if you don’t think that allergen is present. It is better to be safe than sorry. Remember, it is your responsibility to keep the people you are serving safe.

Common Sources of Hidden Allergens

Be sure to pay extra attention to the following foods, as they commonly contain hidden allergens.


Peanut allergies are a severe allergy for many people. Lots of Asian cuisines will include peanuts in sauces. Peanuts can also be hiding in pastries and chocolates.

Other Names for Peanuts

  • Ground nuts
  • Beer nuts
  • Monkey nuts
  • Arachis oil
  • Kernels
  • Mandelonas

Tree Nuts

There are a variety of different tree nuts to watch out for, such as walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, chestnuts, pistachios, and cashews, just to name a few.

Peanuts are a legume, so those with a tree nut allergy are typically not allergic to peanuts. However, foods with peanuts could contain traces of tree nuts, so be aware of that.

Nuts can be hidden in Indian curry pastes, Thai sauces, and pesto. Cooking oils may also contain tree nuts. Watch out for nut butters as well.


Eggs can be found in many different pastries, but also be aware that pastry glazes may also contain eggs.

Other Names for Eggs

  • Albumen
  • Conalbumin
  • Globulin
  • Livetin
  • Lysozyme
  • Ovalbumin
  • Ovomucin
  • Ovotransferrin
  • Silico-albuminate
  • Vitellin


Wheat is more obviously in bread, pastries, pizza bases, and pasta, but it can also be present in stock cubes and Worcestershire sauce.

When considering wheat allergies, it is important to distinguish the difference between a wheat allergy and gluten sensitivity. Wheat allergies is a reaction to wheat protein, and gluten is a specific protein in wheat, barley, and rye.


Fish frequently hide in sauces, such as Worcestershire sauce and Caesar salad dressing. Thai and other Asian cuisines will frequently include fish sauce in their dishes. Fish can also appear in fried rice.


Like fish, shellfish can be hidden in fried rice and sauces.

A shellfish allergy is different than a fish allergy, but fish from a seafood restaurant may contain traces of shellfish due to cross-contact, and vice versa. However, people with fish or shellfish allergies will likely avoid seafood altogether.


Soy can appear in many different cooking oils. There can also be dishes with soy sauce hidden in it, so make sure you are familiar with what is going into any given dish.

Many vegetarian and vegan protein substitutes contain soy. Textured vegetable protein (TVP) contains soy, so those with a soy allergy should avoid this.

Other Names for Soy

  • Miso
  • Tofu
  • Tempeh
  • Textured vegetable protein (TVP)
  • Shoyu
  • Soya
  • Natto
  • Tamari


Butter or cream can be hidden in many different foods. Watch out for sauces, dips, baked goods, battered or fried foods, soups, and potato dishes

Other Names for Milk

  • Casein (hydrolysate)
  • Caseinates
  • Whey
  • Lactoalbumin (phosphate)
  • Lactose
  • Lactulose
  • Lactoferrin
  • Lacto Globulin

To go more in depth on hidden allergens and how to prevent allergic reactions, take a look at our Allergy Awareness training.

What is a Foodborne Illness and Other Questions Answered

As a Food Handler or Manager, you constantly hear about the importance of following the correct food safety procedures to prevent foodborne illnesses. But at some point, you may have wondered why it is so important to prevent foodborne illnesses.

Here are the basics to understanding the impact of foodborne illnesses and why we put such an emphasis on food safety.

What is a foodborne illness?

According to the World Health Organization, foodborne illnesses are diseases caused by eating food contaminated by bacteria, viruses, parasites, or chemicals.

There are over 200 identified foodborne diseases, but the most common are known as the Big 6—Salmonella, Typhoid, E. coli, Norovirus, and Hepatitis A.

How do contaminants get into food and cause a foodborne illness?

Food can be contaminated at any stage of production, delivery, or consumption.

Foodborne illnesses can be prevented by implementing safe food handling practices, which is why food safety training is so important for everyone working in the food industry.

Who is impacted by foodborne illnesses?

The CDC estimates that 48 million people contract a foodborne illness each year in the United States, with 128,000 hospitalized and 3,000 deaths.

Anyone can get a foodborne illness, but the most at-risk groups include:

  • The elderly
  • Young children
  • Immunocompromised or those with preexisting conditions
  • Pregnant women

What are the symptoms of foodborne illnesses?

Symptoms vary between different foodborne illnesses, but here are the most common symptoms:

  • Upset stomach or stomach cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever

When should I see a doctor?

Most foodborne illnesses just take time. However, you should see a doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Fever over 102°F
  • Frequent vomiting
  • Signs of dehydration
  • Diarrhea lasting for more than 3 days

Remember, prevention is best when it comes to tackling foodborne illnesses. Learn more about preventing foodborne illnesses by taking our Food Handler and Food Protection Manager training.

What to Do If Someone Has an Allergic Reaction in Your Restaurant

Each year, around 200,000 people in the United States need emergency medical care after an allergic reaction to food. Hopefully, this doesn’t happen, but an allergic reaction could happen in your restaurant.

Prevention is key, but knowing what to do if a severe allergic reaction does occur is also important for keeping everyone safe.

The following goes over symptoms of a severe allergic reaction and how to respond if one does occur.

Train Staff on Food Allergies

Prevention is better than cure, and proper allergen awareness training can prevent allergic reactions from happening in the first place. The more educated your staff is on topics such as common food allergens and allergen cross-contact, the more you can avoid a serious allergic reaction from happening in your restaurant.

Symptoms of a Severe Allergic Reaction

Anaphylaxis is a severe reaction to an allergen and can be life threatening if not treated properly. Symptoms include:

  • Low blood pressure
  • Hives
  • Swelling of face, lips, tongue, or throat
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Weak and rapid pulse
  • Constricted airways causing wheezing and problems breathing

Call 911

The first thing you should do if someone is experiencing any signs of anaphylaxis is call 911 immediately. If they have a history of anaphylaxis, even if they are not experiencing symptoms, they should make a trip to the emergency room. Do this before anything else.

If they are dining alone, it might be a good idea to try to get in touch with an emergency contact, if possible.

Use an Epinephrine Autoinjector

People with a severe allergy should carry at least one epinephrine autoinjector at all times. Administer at the first signs of anaphylaxis by injecting the shot into their outer thigh.

The epinephrine cannot harm them if it is unnecessarily administered, so if you are unsure of whether it is needed, it is better to just go ahead and inject it. Don’t wait for symptoms to worsen.

What to do after

Even if the symptoms are mild or have stopped, they should go to the nearest hospital in case the symptoms return or worsen.

Get your staff educated about food allergies by having them take our Allergen Awareness course.

Dress for Success: How Clothing Affects Food Safety

Looking clean and presentable is not just about making a good impression on customers.

We know that cross-contamination can be caused by not sanitizing surfaces or not washing your hands, but did you know that cross-contamination can also occur by transferring bacteria from dirty clothing?

Although it’s still important to maintain a good appearance for customers, being clean and presentable also prevents spreading pathogenic bacteria onto the food you are preparing.

Here is how you should handle clothing in order to maintain personal hygiene standards and dress for (food safety) success!

Wear Clean, Undamaged Clothing

Wear clean uniforms at the beginning of each shift and change if necessary. Do not wear damaged garments.

Wash Uniforms After Use

Dirty uniforms should be washed after they are used, before they are used again. Be sure to store dirty uniforms separately from clean ones.

Keep Aprons and Uniforms in Food Prep Area

When leaving the food prep area, leave your apron or uniform to prevent contaminating it with outside bacteria. There should be a designated spot for this.

In addition, outside clothing should be kept out of the food prep area. Again, there should be a designated area for this purpose.

Change Single-Use Disposable Gloves Frequently

When wearing single-use disposable gloves, change them frequently. For example, change them between tasks and when leaving the food prep area.

Don’t Wear Jewelry and Nail Polish

Don’t wearing jewelry while handling food. Bacteria can be hiding under the jewelry and make its way into the food. The exception is a plain band.

Nail polish is not allowed, as it can chip off and get into the food you are preparing. Acrylic nails are not permitted as well.

Wear Proper Head Coverings

Wear a clean hat or other hair covering. Hair coverings ensure that loose hair does not fall into the food. Long hair should be tied or put back to avoid hair falling out.

Want to learn more ways to prevent cross-contamination in your restaurant? Check out our Food Protection Manager training course.

Symptoms of Food Poisoning: How to Spot a Foodborne Illness

Each year, an estimated 48 million people get sick from a foodborne illness, with 128,000 hospitalized and 3,000 deaths. This is why, as food handlers, being knowledgeable about food safety is so important—it can save lives.

Knowing the symptoms of a foodborne illness is just as important to food safety as knowing how to prevent them. Learn what these symptoms are, as well as what to do if you get food poisoning.

Common Symptoms of Foodborne Illnesses

There are over 250 identified foodborne diseases, and although they are all different, they tend to have similar symptoms, ranging from mild to severe. These include:

  • Upset stomach
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever

There are six main foodborne illnesses, known as the Big 6. Learn about what they are and more specific symptoms.

Signs to See a Doctor

Foodborne illnesses can have serious symptoms. The CDC says to seek medical attention if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms:

  • Bloody diarrhea
  • High fever (over 102°F)
  • Frequent vomiting
  • Signs of dehydration
  • Diarrhea that lasts more than 3 days.

If You Are Experiencing Foodborne Illness Symptoms

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms, do the following:

Stay hydrated

Diarrhea and vomiting can cause dehydration. Be sure to slowly be drinking fluids to prevent this from happening.

Don’t come into work

Food handlers should not go to work if they are experiencing these symptoms. You can risk passing a foodborne illness along to your customers through the food you are preparing for them.

Report foodborne illness

If you contract a foodborne illness, even if you are not sure where it came from, report it to your local health department. Reporting it can help identify a foodborne illness outbreak and keep others from getting sick.

Learn more about foodborne illnesses and how to prevent them by taking out Food Handler training.

How to Properly Wash Your Hands

Personal hygiene is an important element of food safety, and handwashing might just be the most essential step. Handwashing prevents you from getting sick, and also from passing on sickness, such as a foodborne illness.

Even though handwashing is an important step in preventing the spread of foodborne illnesses, a study by the USDA found that 97% of consumers are not properly washing their hands in the kitchen, which in turn lead to bacteria being transferred to other surfaces in the kitchen through cross-contamination.

As a food handler, you need to know when and how to properly wash your hands in order to prevent cross-contamination. Follow these steps to ensure you are correctly washing your hands and removing harmful bacteria that could harm yourself or your customers.

When Should I Wash My Hands?

You should be washing your hands before, after, and during handling food. You should also wash your hands after tasks such as:

  • After using the bathroom
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, sneezing
  • After taking out the garbage
  • After handling raw foods
  • After a break
  • After handling money or receipts
  • After touching clothing, hair, or face

Use your best judgement. If you think you should wash your hands after completing a certain task but are unsure, you probably should just wash them.

How Should I Wash My Hands?

The CDC recommends to wash your hands using the following steps:

  1. Wet your hands with clean water and apply soap
  2. Lather the soap
  3. Scrub your hands for 20 seconds and make sure to get the back of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails
  4. Rinse off the soap under clean running water
  5. Dry your hands with a clean single use towel or hand dryer

What About Hand Sanitizer?

Using soap and water is the best way to get rid of germs on your hands. However, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer is acceptable if soap and water are not available, just make sure that the hand sanitizer contains at least 60% alcohol. Just keep in mind that hand sanitizers do not get rid of all germs, and they are not as effective if hands are dirty or greasy.

Learn more about preventing the spread of foodborne illness by completing our Food Handlers training.

Types of Food Hazards and How to Prevent Them

Cross-contamination is a major food safety risk. Without safe food handling practices, storage procedures, personal hygiene, and cleaning, contaminants can get into the food you serve, causing foodborne illnesses or allergic reactions.

But what causes food contamination?

Learn more about what hazards can come into contact with food and cause it to become contaminated, and what are the best practices for preventing contamination.

Pathogenic Bacterial Contamination (aka Cross-Contamination)

When most people are talking about cross-contamination, they are talking about spreading pathogenic bacteria onto food that could make someone sick.

Best Practices

Be sure to clean and sanitize all equipment, utensils, and surfaces between tasks and after prepping raw food. Also, raw food separately from ready-to-eat products.

Chemical Contamination

Chemical contamination can occur if raw food are contaminated with chemicals. Contamination can also occur if cleaning chemicals are misused, not rinsed off properly, or used in the wrong concentration.


  • Rust from an opened metal tin in the refrigerator
  • Cleaning product coming into contact with food

Best Practice

All chemicals should be stored in a separate cupboard away from the food area. Never transfer chemicals to other non-marked containers. Another best practice it to follow the manufacturers instructions for using each chemical.

Physical Contamination

Physical contamination occurs when a foreign object falls onto or into food. No one wants to find a band-aid in their food, but physical contamination can also contain pathogenic bacteria that could cause a foodborne illness.


There are many physical hazards that could lead to contamination, but some examples include:

  • Hair
  • Glass
  • Bandages
  • String
  • Plastic
  • Bird droppings
  • Dead insects

Best Practice

Always unpack food in a separate area away from food prep areas to reduce the risk of physical contamination from the packaging.

Also, Bug Zappers should ideally be placed near external doors. They should not be located close to open food, as dead insects could drop on the foods and contaminate it.

Allergen Cross-Contact

Allergen cross-contact occurs when an allergen’s proteins come into contact with another food and mix. Unlike pathogenic bacteria, an allergen’s proteins cannot be cooked off, and even the smallest traces of could cause an allergic reaction.

Best Practices

Store common allergens separately from other foods and be sure to clean and sanitize surfaces and equipment. If an allergen accidentally comes in contact when preparing an allergen free meal, do not try picking it out and serve the meal. Remember, once the proteins come into contact with the dish, they cannot be cooked out and can still cause an allergic reaction.

Learn more about preventing contamination by taking our Food Handlers, Allergen Awareness, and Food Proctection Manager training.

How Proctors Are Getting People Their Food Protection Manager Certificates During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic forced many things to become virtual—including test taking. Remotely proctored food protection manager exams have now become extremely popular.

However, even with the pandemic still ongoing, in-person proctors have still found ways to safely get people their food manager certifications.

COVID-19 precautions are set in place, such as limited class sizes, spacing out students, wearing masks, and temperature checks.

The pandemic has made safety training, including food safety training, more relevant and important than ever. It has brought to light the importance of proper training in order to keep customers and workers safe.

Read more about how Always Food Safe proctor Linda Petterson is getting students their food protection manager certification during the pandemic.

Whether you want to take the food protection manager exam in-person or online, Always Food Safe will get you certified. Learn more about our Food Protection Manager training & certification.