Food Safety: Facts vs. Fiction

Food Safety: Facts vs. Fiction | Dr. Ali Ghahary

When it comes to food safety, the general rules that everyone is (or already should be) aware of include not to leave food sitting out for prolonged periods of time, and to ensure that the foods you’re eating (meat, especially) are cooked thoroughly before consumption. Failure to follow these important food safety rules could lead to food-related illness, such as food poisoning, which isn’t pleasant to experience. However, there are some other myths associated with food safety that one should be aware of, as outlined below.

Myth #1: Rinse meat and poultry before cooking.
This is something a lot of people do, but it’s actually a big DON’T on the list of things you shouldn’t do. When you rinse foods like meat and poultry, you’re actually at risk of causing further issues with cross contamination and the spreading of bacteria to things like your sink, counter top, and even utensils. The best way to kill off any bacteria is, as mentioned, to cook meat and poultry thoroughly. Depending on whether they are ground meats or not, things like beef and pork should be cooked between 145 and 160 degrees Fahrenheit, while poultry should be cooked at at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Also make sure you thoroughly wash surfaces and utensils that have come into contact with raw meats and poultry, and don’t set already prepared foods on surfaces that have not yet been washed. The same rules also apply for seafood.

Myth #2: Produce doesn’t have to be rinsed prior to consumption.
Unless packaging says that it has already been pre-washed, produce should always be rinsed thoroughly prior to consumption as many of the fruits and vegetables we buy can contain bacteria, either through soil or from handling. If you’re going to be eating something like a melon or cucumber, it is a good idea to scrub it with a clean produce brush – as well as to give things like apples a quick rinse even after peeling to ensure any bacteria has been washed away, followed by drying it with a clean cloth or paper towel. These rules apply for both organic and non-organic produce.

Myth #3: Foods don’t need to be kept separate.
Generally, it’s a good idea to keep foods separate. For example, when grocery shopping, raw foods should be placed in bags separate from other foods – and the same goes for storing them in your fridge at home. If you’re not planning on cooking meat or poultry for a few days, you should freeze them. However, keep in mind that foods cannot be kept frozen indefinitely. Fruits, such as blueberries, for example, will last around 8 to 12 months in the freezer, while a ham is only good frozen for 1 to 2 months – and if you’re unsure as to exactly how long something has been kept in your freezer for, you’re likely better off tossing it than putting your health at risk.

Myth #4: You can defrost food by keeping it out of the freezer all day.
Depending on what it is that you are trying to defrost, this process can take several hours. It can also be a breeding ground for bacteria, as the surface can reach a temperature that allows bacteria to multiply. If you’re wanting to defrost something, the best and safest way to do it is by keeping it in the fridge or by using the microwave/

Myth #5: It’s safe to eat moldy bread and/or cheese.
People who discover a small amount of mold on corners of bread or cheese often think it’s okay to eat if they just cut it off. However, mold can be an indicator that toxins have spread throughout the bread and/or cheese; therefore, you should toss it. In addition, consuming food with mold on it could also potentially trigger an allergic reaction and/or respiratory problems.