December 3, 2015
Let’s face it: in all your years of memorizing nutrition tips, health hacks, and other various food techniques, how much of it has actually stuck with you? Exactly.
And that sucks because somewhere along the way, you probably picked up pointers on how to prepare food both safely and correctly (you know, so that you won’t catch some deadly food-borne illness).
Well, 'tis the season in which colds, flu, and fevers are at a high, so why not knock out the possibility of food poisoning forever? Jog your memory a bit and see if any of these food safety myths ring a bell.
Myth #1: The fridge/freezer, microwave, and/or cooking in general will kill any bacteria.
Hate to burst your bubble, but neither extreme heat nor cold are going to rid your food of bacteria. Bacteria can survive a freezer’s 0°F temperature, so you know they won’t die off in the fridge, either. On the opposite side, even though heat generated by microwave ovens can kill bacteria, the food still has a chance of cooking unevenly, which means that bacteria may stick around.
And, not to scare you, but some bacteria such as staphylococcus (staph) produce spores and toxins that aren’t killed off by high cooking temperatures. Make sure perishable foods get refrigerated within two hours at 40°F or lower, and that food reaches an internal temperature of 165°F when cooking/reheating.
Myth #2: You can’t drink milk past the date on the carton.
Don’t toss out that white elixir just yet—you might be looking at the “sell-by” date rather than the actual expiration or “use-by” date.
Dairy milk should last you five to seven days past the sell-by date, provided it’s stored properly in a cold fridge. You can even freeze it, in most cases it’ll last up to 30 days there.
Myth #3: You don’t need to refrigerate maple syrup (or oils/flour/etc.).
There are some things you should keep in the pantry, and there are things you should keep in that big solid block of cold called your fridge.
Maple syrup is one of these things; storing the sticky stuff in the refrigerator will lessen the chances of it attracting yeast, bacteria, and mold.
Other items that benefit from storage in the fridge include (but not limited to): ketchup, whole wheat flour, nuts, chocolate sauce, and oils.
Myth #4: If there’s mold on your bread, you can just scrape it off.
I know it’s hard, but it’s time your relationship with that moldy bread comes to an end. Throw out the entire loaf because there’s probably more mold where that came from.
Fungi, bacteria and toxins might be present, so what looks like a small area of contamination could be way worse than it seems.
As a side note, hard and semisoft cheeses with mold can be eaten, so long as you scrape or cut away the mold. The same does not hold for soft, shredded or crumbled cheese.
Myth #5: Your cutting board is fine after a quick wash.
All types of cutting board, whether wood, glass, or plastic, can potentially hold tons of harmful bacteria, and should, therefore, be washed and sanitized after each use (yes, both).
Luckily, many are dishwasher-safe (yay, less scrubbing!). Though, if your cutting board gets to the point where it looks like one of those old, carved up tables at your local pizzeria, it’s best to toss it out.
Myth #6: Washing produce with soap or detergent will ensure they’re really safe.
Nice logic, but alas, this is false. Soaps and detergents are not okay for human consumption, so please don’t rub them all over things you plan to put in your mouth!
Be sure to check the labels on your products for instructions such as “ready-to-eat,” “washed,” or “triple washed.” If these magic words are nowhere to be found, wash your hands, then rinse the produce under running tap water, scrubbing firmer items like melons and squash with a clean, sanitized produce brush; then, dry!
Myth #7: The last meal I ate gave me food poisoning.
It turns out that most harmful microorganisms, except some toxins and viruses, take more than a couple hours to make you sick. Some may even take weeks. So, while you might want to blame that taco or sushi you last ate, you may have to do more than a little backtracking to figure out what betrayed you.
Myth #8: I can live by the five-second rule.
Ah yes, the all encompassing five-second rule. I’m sure this “rule” convinced you more than once that the food that’s fallen on the floor for said period is safe to eat.
In actuality, it doesn’t matter how long your fallen friend has been on the ground—bacteria and other germs have already set up camp on your frosted sprinkled donut and are cooking microscopic s’mores.
Swallow your pride (not the donut) and buy a new one.
Myth #9: The food items I bought are safe.
Regardless of the FDA or the Department of Agriculture or the Food Safety Modernization Act, there are still recalls and inspections of food-processing facilities that miss critically improper practices. To prevent foodborne illness in these scenarios, make sure to prepare food properly on your end.