Food Safety: Myth Busters

September is the National Food Safety Education Month.  Food safety is one arena where myths and old wives tales abound, but it’s also an area where some caution and mindfulness can help your family stay safe and healthy.  Check out these four food safety myths and facts for keeping your food safe.

MYTH 1: Rinsing chicken with water will remove bacteria like salmonella.

FACT: Rinsing poultry will not remove bacteria.  In fact, it can spread raw juices around your sink, onto your countertops, and onto ready-to-eat foods.  Bacteria in raw meat and poultry can only be killed when cooked to a safe internal temperature, which for poultry is 165°F, as measured with a food thermometer.  Save yourself the messiness of rinsing raw poultry.  It is not a safety step and can cause cross-contamination.

MYTH 2: Leftovers are safe to eat until they smell bad.

FACT: Most people would not choose to eat spoiled, smelly food.  However, if they did, they would not necessarily get sick.  This is because there are different types of bacteria, some of which cause illness in people and others that don’t.  The types of bacteria that do cause illness do not affect the taste, smell, or appearance of food.  For this reason, it is 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 3:  Using the same utensils, cutting boards and plates for foods eaten at the same meal is safe as long as they start out clean.

FACT: Raw meat and other foods contain bacteria that can cross-contaminate other foods if not kept separate.  Use separate utensils, cutting boards, and serving plates for meats and produce, or carefully wash them between tasks.  Put cooked meat on a clean platter, not the same one that held the raw meat.  Make sure sponges and counters are disinfected and kept clean to avoid contaminating food.

MYTH 4: Food can be left at room temperature or outdoors for more than two hours.

FACT: Bacteria grow rapidly in the “temperature danger zone” between 41°F and 135°F, and bacteria growth is highest between 70-125°F.  Food left at room temperature for more than two hours should be discarded.  When the temperature outside is 90°F or hotter, food should be discarded after just one hour.  This is important to remember if you are preparing food for a tailgate party or picnic.

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