Food Safety: Fact or Fiction?

We all do our best to make sure we are serving our loved ones food that's safe and healthy, but sometimes even the most savvy chef can fall prey to these common misconceptions. Take the food safety quiz below - you might be surprised by some of the results. When you're done, pass it on. Together, we can help keep kitchens across our state, and even country, healthier.  

Each year, approximately 3,000 Americans die from foodborne illness.

Fact: One in six Americans, roughly 48 million people, get sick from food poisoning every year. Most of them will recover without any lasting effects from their illness. What many people don't know is that for some foodborne illnesses leads to long-term health conditions, such a kidney failure, chronic arthritis, brain and nerve damage, and even death. Get the facts on long-term effects of food poisoning.

It's OK to thaw meat on the counter. Since it starts out frozen, bacteria isn't really a problem.

Fiction: Actually, bacteria grows surprisingly fast at room temperatures, so the counter is actually one of the most dangerous areas to thawing or marinate food. Instead, thaw foods the right way either in the refrigerator, microwave or in cold water. Or, if you don't have enough time to thaw, cook foods from a frozen state. Just remember, it will take approximately 50% longer than fully thawed meat or poultry would. Learn more about preventing bacteria growth.

When cleaning my kitchen, the more bleach I use, the better. More bleach kills more bacteria, so it's safer for my family.

Fiction: Rinsing utensils, countertops, and cutting boards with water won't do enough to stop bacteria from spreading , but there is no advantage to using more bleach than needed. To clean kitchen surfaces effectively, you only need one teaspoon of liquid, unscented bleach for every one quart of water. Remember, bleach solutions get less effective with time, so if you aren't going to use the unused portions within one week, throw it out.

I don't need to wash fruits or vegetables if I'm going to peel them.

Fiction: Because it's easy to transfer bacteria from the peel or rind while you're cutting to the inside of your fruits and veggies, it's important to wash all produce, even if you plan to peel it. effectively cleaning fruits and vegetables is easy - just cut away any damaged or bruised areas; rinse produce under running water; scrub firm produce-like melons or cucumbers-with a clean produce brush; and dry it with a paper towel or clean cloth.

Rinsing meat, poultry, or seafood with water increases your chance of food poisoning.

Fact: Actually, rinsing meat, poultry, or seafood with water can increase your chance of food poisoning by splashing juices (and any bacteria they might contain) onto your sink and counters. The best way to cook meat, poultry, or seafood safely is to make sure you cook it to the right temperature. Wondering about eggs? All commercial eggs are washed before sale. Any extra handling of the eggs, such as washing, may actually increase the risk of cross-contamination, especially if the shell becomes cracked.

The only reason to let food sit after it's been microwaved is to make sure you don't burn yourself on food that's too hot.

Fiction: In fact, letting microwaved food sit for a few minutes ("standing time") helps your food cook more completely by allowing colder areas of food time to absorb heat from hotter areas of food. So, If the food label says, "Let stand for x minutes after cooking," don't skimp on the standing time.  That extra minute or two could mean the difference between a delicious meal and food poisoning.

The kinds of bacteria that cause food poisoning do not affect the look, smell or taste of food.

Fact: Some people believe that leftovers are safe to eat until they smell bad when in fact the kinds of bacterial that cause food poisoning don't always change the look, smell or even the taste of the food. To be safe, use the Safe Storage Times chart to make sure you know the right time to throw food out.

Once food has been cooked, all the bacteria have been killed, so there is no concern for foodborne illness once it's "done."

Fiction: Actually, the possibility of bacterial growth increases after cooking because the drop in temperature allows bacteria to thrive. Bacteria that causes food poisoning multiply quickest in the "Danger Zone" between 40? and 140? Fahrenheit. This is why keeping cooked food warmed to the right temperature is critical for food safety. To make sure your food stays above the safe temperature of 140?F, use a heat source like a chafing dish, warming tray or slow cooker.

Marinades are acidic, which kills bacteria-so it's OK to marinate foods on the counter.

Fiction: Even in the presence of acidic marinade, bacteria can grow very rapidly at room temperatures, making the counter one of the riskiest places. To marinate foods safely, it's important to marinate them in the refrigerator.

Using clean running water is the best way to clean fruits and vegetables before eating.

Fact: It's best not to use soaps or detergents on produce since these products can linger on foods and are not safe for consumption. Instead, use clean running water to effectively remove bacteria and wash produce safely. Bagged produce marked "pre-washed" is safe to use without further washing.