Urban myths surrounding food safety have persisted for years, despite being plainly untrue. In order to separate fact from fiction, here are eight of the most common myths still in circulation.
Myth 1: You can always smell or taste when food is ‘off’
This is not true. Although food that has spoiled often smells or tastes bad, not all bacteria are detectable to the human senses. Bacteria can contaminate food without you knowing it.
Myth 2: Hand sanitiser is as effective as hand washing
This is only partially true. Hand washing removes some bacteria as does sanitiser. However, when hands are soiled, it is best to use both methods; washing with liquid soap and drying with paper towels is most effective.
Myth 3: Food can be safely defrosted on the bench
This is not true. The Danger Zone for bacterial contamination is between 5ºC and 60ºC and room temperature falls within that range. The safest way to defrost food is in the refrigerator or, if needed quickly, in the microwave.
Myth 4: Mouldy food is okay to eat, if you remove the mould
No it isn’t. While some cheeses use mould in their manufacture; when mould appears on other types of food, it means that food is contaminated. Immature mould spores are invisible to the naked eye and are likely to be present in the rest of the food.
Myth 5: The 3, 5 or 10 Second Rule
Despite being the most common myth, there is no truth to it. It should be remembered instead as the Zero Second Rule, because it takes less than a second for food to become contaminated when dropped. The moment it touches the floor bacteria swarm all over it, so it should not be consumed.
Myth 6: There’s no need to wash produce if peeling it
This is untrue. The chemicals and contaminants present on fruit and vegetables can be transferred onto the internal layer during the peeling process, so produce should always be washed before and after peeling.
Myth 7: Chicken is safe to eat if it is pink
Regardless of colour, chicken must be cooked to an internal temperature of 75ºC to kill bacteria. Using a meat thermometer is always the safest way to determine whether chicken has been satisfactorily cooked.
Myth 8: Meat and poultry should be washed before cooking
Washing meat does not remove the risk of food borne illness and can cause cross-contamination instead. When rinsing meat and poultry, the blood juices and pathogens are washed into the sink, infecting the sink and often the surrounding food preparation area. Rather than washing meat and poultry, it is best to allow the cooking process to kill any bacteria present in fresh meat and poultry.