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The Partnership for Food Safety Education Tackles Four Common Food Safety Myths

Recipes can be handed down from generation to generation and so can myths surrounding food safety — sometimes with sickening consequences. September is National Food Safety Education Month and the Partnership for Food Safety Education (PFSE), in cooperation with the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is marking the occasion with an outreach to consumers aimed at debunking four common food safety myths:

* Myth: Lemon juice and salt will clean and sanitize a cutting board.

Fact: Sanitizing is the process of reducing the number of microorganisms that are on a properly cleaned surface to a safe level to reduce risk of foodborne illness. Lemon juice and salt will not do this. An effective way to sanitize cutting boards and other kitchen surfaces, is with a diluted bleach and water solution — just 1 tablespoon unscented liquid chlorine bleach (not more) to 1 gallon of water. To clean your cutting board, first wash it with hot water and soap. After rinsing it off with clean water, sanitize by letting the diluted chlorine bleach solution stand on the cutting board surface for about a minute. Rinse and blot dry with clean paper towels. It is important to clean and sanitize – just because a surface looks clean, does not mean it is free of disease-causing bacteria!

* Myth: Putting chicken in a colander and rinsing it with water will remove bacteria like Salmonella.

Fact: Rinsing chicken in a colander 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 minimum internal temperature, which for poultry is 165 F, as measured by a food thermometer. Save yourself the messiness of rinsing raw poultry. It is not a safety step and can cause cross-contamination.

* Myth: Once a hamburger turns brown in the middle, it is fully cooked.

Fact: You cannot use visual cues to determine whether food has been cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature. The ONLY way to know that food has been cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature is to use a food thermometer. Ground meat should be cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature of 160 F, as measured by a food thermometer.

* Myth: You should not put hot food in the refrigerator.

Fact: Hot foods can be placed directly in the refrigerator. A large pot of food like soup or stew should be divided into small portions and put in shallow containers for quicker cooling in the refrigerator. If you leave food out to cool and forget about it, then toss it! Bacteria grow rapidly in the "danger zone" between 40 F and 140 F. Always follow the "two hour rule" for cooked foods – eat them or refrigerate them within two hours at a refrigerator temperature of 40 F or below. And, if left out in a room or outdoors where the temperature is 90 F or above, food should be refrigerated or eaten within just 1 hour – or discarded.

  • Marymary

    I’m concerned about myth #4.It is true that the quantities of food usually cooked in a home kitchen could be put into the refrigerator and cooled safely in most instances. However, it is difficult to get people who work in retail food establishments to understand that what may work at home does not work in the retail food setting where huge amounts of hot food are cooked. I’m so glad that I no longer do retail food service inspections. I can just hear the tavern operators: “I read that you can put hot food directly into the refrigerator to cool. Why are you telling me that I can’t put my hot 20-gallon pot of chili into the walk-in beer cooler?” I feel sorry for the inspectors who will have to explain the difference.