It's September, so it's time for us to bust some myths.
Beginning in the mid-90s, National Food Safety Education Month has focused public attention on safe food handling and preparation. Since 2009, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in cooperation with the non-profit Partnership for Food Safety Education, have marked the occasion by exposing myths about food safety that somehow keep cropping up.
Food safety myths may not sound very serious. But they may cause food handling mistakes that can lead to food poisoning, severe illness, and even death. So it's important to get the facts straight.
Here are the myths -- and the facts -- for 2011:
Myth: I eat a vegetarian diet, so I don't have to worry about food poisoning.
Fact: Fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet. But justlike other foods they carry a risk of foodborne illness. Always rinse produce under running tap water, including fruits and vegetables with skins and rinds that are not eaten. Never use detergent or bleach to wash fresh fruits or vegetables as these products are not intended for consumption. Packaged fruits and vegetables labeled "ready-to-eat" or "washed" don't need to be re-washed. Learn more tips at: http://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/types/fruits/index.html.
Myth: Freezing foods kills harmful bacteria that can cause food poisoning (also called foodborne illness).
Fact: Bacteria can survive freezing temperatures. Freezing food is not a method for making foods safe to eat. When food is thawed, bacteria can still be present and may begin to multiply. Cooking food to the proper internal temperature is the only way to kill harmful bacteria. Use a thermometer to measure the internal temperature of cooked foods. See the chart at: http://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/charts/mintemp.html.
Myth: Locally grown, organic foods will never give me food poisoning.
Fact: Any food from any source can become unsafe if it is not handled and stored properly. Consumers in their homes can take action to keep themselves and their families safe. That is why it is important to reduce your risk of food poisoning by practicing the four steps to food safety: Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill. Learn more about these steps at: http://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/basics/index.html.
Myth: Plastic or glass cutting boards don't hold harmful bacteria on their surfaces like wooden cutting boards do.
Fact: Regardless of the type of cutting board you use, it should be washed and sanitized after each use. Solid plastic, tempered glass, sealed granite, and hardwood cutting boards are dishwasher safe. However, wood laminates don't hold up well in the dishwasher. Once cutting boards of any type become excessively worn or develop hard-to-clean grooves, they should be discarded.
Mythbusters of past years can be found at http://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/basics/myths/.
By Howard Seltzer, National Education Advisor, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, FDA