Janet Hackert, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, Harrison County, University of Missouri Extension
September is National Food Safety Month so here are a few myths and facts from Fight Bac! Partnership for Food Safety Education about keeping food safe at home.
Myth: Cross-contamination does not happen in the refrigerator because it is too cold for germs to survive.
Fact: Some microorganisms can survive, even in that moist environment at refrigerator temperatures. For example, listeria monocytogenes, that can be found in soft cheese, unpasteurized milk, hot dogs, deli meats and other foods, can live and continue to grow even when it is as cold as 35.6 degrees Fahrenheit. That is 4.4 degrees colder than the warmest a refrigerator should be. Keep the refrigerator at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or colder and the freezer at 0 degrees or colder.
Myth: Leftovers are safe to eat until they smell bad.
Fact: Smell is not an indication of whether a food is safe to eat or not since most contamination that can cause food poisoning does not affect the smell, taste or look of the food. Know how long to safely keep foods at these temperatures. For example, leftovers should only be kept in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Make a plan to eat them within that timeframe, or if that is not possible or likely, freeze what would still be around beyond four days. Otherwise, toss them before they make anyone sick.
Myth: If I microwave a food, the microwaves kill the bacteria, so the food is safe.
Fact: The microwaves themselves do not kill the bacteria or viruses that can cause illness; the heat generated in the food by the microwaves is what is effective. Follow package instructions carefully, including turning and wait periods. Or use a food thermometer to check that the internal temperature is what it needs to be in order to be safe.
Keeping food safe is important – that is a fact. Fightbac.org has other food safety myths and facts along with information on symptoms of foodborne illness and how to prevent it, understanding food recalls and more food safety topics.
University of Missouri Extension has a series of guides on storing food safely:
For more information and resources on food safety, contact your local University of Missouri Extension office.
photo credit – Håkan Dahlström **