Food Safety “Mythbusters 2010!”

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The importance of safe food handling has been recently heightened by the Salmonella outbreak involving eggs, as well as other foodborne illness outbreaks nationwide.

September is National Food Safety Education Month and North Carolina Cooperative Extension is joining with the non-profit Partnership for Food Safety Education (PFSE) to introduce “Food Safety Mythbusters.”

Here are this year’s featured myths along with the facts to help reduce your risk of foodborne illness:

Myth: Leftovers are safe to eat until they smell bad.

Fact: Most people would not choose to eat spoiled, unappealing food. A person eating a spoiled food may not necessarily get sick. There are different types of bacteria, some that cause illness in people and others that do not. The types of bacteria that cause illness do not affect the taste, smell, or appearance of food. For this reason it is important to freeze or discard refrigerated leftovers within three to four days. If you are unsure how long your leftovers have been stored in the refrigerator, avoid the risk – when in doubt, throw it out!

Myth: I use bleach and water to sanitize my countertops and the more bleach I use the more bacteria I kill.

Fact: There is no advantage to using more bleach. In fact, overuse of bleach can be harmful because it is not safe to consume. Make a sanitizing solution with 1 tablespoon of unscented liquid bleach per gallon of water. Flood the countertop with the solution, allow it to sit for a few minutes, then pat with clean, dry paper towels or allow to air dry. Any leftover sanitizing solution can be stored, tightly covered, for up to one week. After that, the bleach may lose its effectiveness.

Myth: I don’t need to wash my produce if I am going to peel it.

Fact: Always wash fresh fruits and vegetables under running tap water just before eating, cutting or cooking. Harmful bacteria could be on the outside of the produce. Peeling or cutting without washing could cause the bacteria to be transferred to the part you eat. Wash delicate produce under cool running water, then blot dry with a clean towel or paper towels. Rub firm-skin fruits and vegetables under running tap water or scrub with a clean produce brush. Never use detergent or bleach to wash fresh fruits or vegetables. These products are not intended for consumption.

Myth: The “allow stand time” recommended for microwaveable foods is optional, it is to prevent burns.

Fact: Allowing “stand time” is not about cooling the microwaved food, but is an important part of the cooking process. Allowing microwaved foods to stand after cooking is necessary for the temperatures to equalize in the food so that the food reaches a safe internal temperature as measured with a food thermometer. To ensure safety with microwave cooking, always read and follow package instructions, know your microwave’s wattage, and use a food thermometer to ensure the food has reached a safe internal temperature.

Following these practical tips will help you deal with everyday food safety challenges.

Source: The Partnership for Food Safety Education (PFSE)

North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Cleveland County Center, for more information on food and nutrition and food safety, contact Nancy Abasiekong by phone: 704-482-4365, by e-mail: nancy_abasiekong@ncsu.edu, or by mail: 130 South Post Road, Suite 1, Shelby, NC 28152