Food Safety Myths – Debunked!

And now I’m going to shock you with my Food Safety Myths – revealed! All the things your mom (or grandma) told you never to do with your food – disproved! You will be amazed to learn that all these years, you’ve been doing it wrong. What’s truly amazing is that you lived this long to read about it! But for real now – read up, and go do right with your food.


#1 The 5 Second Rule: It’s Not Real

The 5 second rule holds that if you drop a piece of food, as long as you pick it up before 5 seconds have elapsed, the food hasn’t had time to become contaminated. In fact, a scientific study was done (of course it was!) to determine if this was a real thing.

The study found that yes, bacteria and icky things do stick themselves to the food as soon as it touches the floor. The stickier or wetter the food is, the more germs will attach to the food. If the food is really dry, not as much. If you are a pretty healthy person, your system can probably handle a few of these bacteria. Otherwise, it might be better to just toss the food.

#2  Once You’ve Thawed Food, You Should Never Refreeze It!

It kinda depends on the circumstances. If you have thawed your food only in the refrigerator, and the food has stayed at or below 40 degrees for no more than a couple of hours, then it’s ok to go ahead and refreeze it if you decide you’re not going to use it. If you look at the food and it’s still icy, it should be fine to put back in the freezer. Keep in mind, the food quality is going to suffer – that means it will not taste as good. Once it’s been refrozen, it might be mushy, or have a freezer flavor. But it should be safe to eat if you stick by these rules.

#3  If I Heat up My Leftovers Really Really Hot I Will Kill Everything

Try asking a college student who has left his pizza on the counter overnight one too many times this question. Unfortunately, reheating your food until it’s smoking hot, does not guarantee that you have killed all the nasty little germs that want to make you sick.

There are many kinds of pathogens (disease causing bacteria) that form something called toxins – like poison, as they grow. These pathogens, unfortunately, can’t be cooked out of your food. The only way to safely store your leftovers is in the refrigerator, and be sure to put them away promptly!

Read more about pathogens and different types of bacteria here:

#4  You Should Rinse Chicken Before Cooking It

(shudder) I’ve actually seen this recommended in recipes etc. This is a big no-no. There is no reason to ever rinse raw meat in your sink before you prep or cook it, and there is every reason why you should NOT do this. Rinsing the raw meat just serves to splash all those bacteria around, getting Salmonella, E. coli, Campylobacter, Listeria and who knows what else everywhere. Why would you want to do that?!

In fact, when handling raw meat, you should be very careful to try and minimize the amount of surfaces you are touching. After the meat is in the pan, be sure to wash and then sanitize the counter, sink and anywhere else meat juice may have dripped. If you touched the sink faucet, stove, refrigerator etc. with dirty hands, be sure to wash those too. And don’t forget to wash your hands before touching anything else!

#5  I Know if My Food is Bad Because I Can Smell It

Unfortunately, bacteria are sneaky. They can multiply very quickly, and they often don’t leave a calling card until it’s too late. You may not be able to smell them, or feel them, and you sure can’t see them. And you won’t hear them playing the marimba on your salad!

Don’t trust your senses to tell you if your food is bad. Your best tools in the kitchen are your clock, and your trusty thermometer. Four hours for safety, and stick to the safe temperatures – below 41 degrees F, above 140 F!

#6  I Can Tell if My Meat is Cooked by Looking At It

See above: we can’t trust our senses to know if our food is safe. The only way to truly know if your meat is done is to test it with a thermometer. Safe cooking ensures you have killed bacteria – no one wants to get sick! Refer to this handy chart for safe cooking times and temperatures:

#7  The More Bleach I Use, the Better!

Sorry, this is not true! It might make sense to think more of a good thing must be better, but sometimes, it’s not. Bleach is a very toxic chemical. Use it with caution, and read the label carefully to make sure you’re using the right amounts. For kitchen sanitizing, 2 teaspoons per gallon of water is usually about right.

Never, ever mix chemicals together. You can create a hazardous mixture that could poison you! Remember to always read the labels on bottles, and only use chemicals that are designed for use around food. For instance, don’t use a toilet cleaner to clean your kitchen sink. And remember to keep your chemicals stored in a place separate from where your food is stored, so they can’t accidentally contaminate the food.

#8  Never Put Hot Food in the Refrigerator

My grandma thought she needed to completely cool her leftovers on the counter before she could put them in the fridge. It’s true that you don’t want to put a huge, deep container of steaming hot food (think chili or a big roast) in the refrigerator without cooling it first. But, it’s also not OK to leave leftovers out for hours just so they can cool down.

True, we don’t want to overheat the inside of the fridge. But it can handle a little heat coming off a warm dish. And it’s better to get those leftovers put away quickly, rather than let them sit in the danger zone of temperatures (41-140).

Sorry Grandma, but you’re risking a worse problem by leaving those leftovers out! (I taught her the right way :))

#9  Last…But Most Surprising…..Mayo Doesn’t Cause Foodborne Illness!!

Did you see that one coming? This rumor has persisted for decades. It came about because many, many years ago, people made their own mayonnaise at home, using raw eggs. Then, they took their potato salad, egg salad, and chicken salad to picnics, where the salad sat out in the sun for several hours. Then, everyone at the picnic found themselves sick a day or two later. Bummer.

Nowadays, not too many folks have time to make mayo homemade. The commercially made stuff, like most food you buy in a jar, can, box etc, has a lot of preservatives, chemicals, and no raw ingredients. Kraft has figured out a way to produce this food so it is shelf stable. You can leave that mayo on your counter for days and you will be just fine! Most fast food restaurants do this, just to make it easier for them to slap it on 9000 buns every day.

What makes you sick in your salads, is the potato, chicken, pasta, etc. It’s not the mayo. Surprise! No one ever guesses that one. Keep reading to learn more food fun facts, and stay safe!

About foodsleuth

I’m a food safety specialist with over 20 years’ experience of restaurant inspection experience. I dabble in writing too for fun. I love to cook (for my family and friends), to eat, and to critique restaurants (unprofessionally)!

This entry was posted in Food safety and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *