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10 Food Safety Myths

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Myth #1:

The “5-second rule” – It’s ok to eat food you’ve dropped on the floor, as long as you pick it up within 5 seconds.

Let’s get this one out of the way first. Everyone has heard of the 5-second rule. Unfortunately, it’s just not true. Studies have been carried out at Queen Mary, University of London, in which various items of food were dropped on the floor and compared to non-dropped food. In every case, the dropped food had significantly higher levels of germs and bacteria – regardless of how long it was left on the floor.

Myth #2:

Washing meat before cooking will help get rid of bacteria.

It sounds reasonable enough. Meat can contain harmful bacteria, so if you give it a wash before cooking you’ll get rid of (at least) some of that bacteria, reducing the chance of food poisoning. Whilst it may be true that you’ll clean off some of the bacteria on the surface of the meat, you’ll do nothing to the bacteria IN the meat. You also risk contaminating everything else in your kitchen by splashing bacteria laden water all over the place.

Myth #3:

You must wait for food to completely cool before putting it in the fridge.

If you put hot food in the fridge, you risk raising the temperature and allowing bacteria to grow on all the other food stored there. So, you’ll need to allow the food to cool, at least a bit. The issue is that leaving food out at room temperature to cool is an open invitation to bacteria. Food should be put in the fridge no more than two hours after being cooked. You can split large amounts of hot food into smaller containers to help it cool faster, or stick it in cold water for a bit.

Myth #4:

Organic foods are safe to eat without washing.

Any food, organic or not, which is grown in soil can be at risk of contamination by harmful bacteria. It can come from the soil itself, during harvesting, or during transport – you can never be too careful, so just wash it. Also, despite what many people believe, most organic farms use pesticides. It doesn’t matter to an insect, or a rat, whether the food is organic or not – they’ll eat what they can get. And organic farmers need to stop them just like any other. So always make sure you give your vegetables a good

Myth #5:

Vegetarians don’t need to worry about food poisoning.

As we’ve already seen, ANY food which is grown in soil and transported can be contaminated with any number of harmful bacteria. Plus, even if you don’t eat meat yourself, if there is raw meat in the kitchen, there’s ALWAYS the risk of cross-contamination. Play it safe, always wash your vegetables.

Myth #6:

If it smells ok, it’s ok to eat.

Lumpy milk. Furry bread. Mushy apples. Sometimes the signs are obvious – this food isn’t safe to eat. However, your senses can’t always be relied on when deciding if food is safe to eat. More often than not harmful bacteria can only be seen under the microscope. Pay attention to how you store food, how long you leave it open, or at room temperature for, and be careful not to cross-contaminate.

Myth #7:

It’s ok to defrost food on the kitchen counter.

Bacteria loves room temperature. They love it so much that within two hours there’ll be more of them – and they won’t stop there. They’ll cover the surface of your defrosting food before the middle has even a chance to warm up. Avoid this by always defrosting food in the fridge, or in the microwave.

Myth #8:

It’s safe to eat raw cookie dough/cake mix.

It’s the Christmas season, so it’s more than likely that you’re going to be making a cake, or Christmas cookies. And we all know from childhood, there’s nothing better than licking the cake batter from the spoon. Unfortunately for all our childhoods, this isn’t actually as safe as you might think. With raw eggs, there’s always the small risk of salmonella, but you also need to be wary of raw flour - in the past there have been cases of E. Coli. Always err on the side of caution, wait until it’s cooked.

Myth #9:

Food can’t be eaten past its “best before” date.

There can often be confusion between a “best before” date, and a “use by” date. This confusion contributes to the 7 million tonnes of food we waste every year – that’s nearly £500 of wasted food, per household. Food shouldn’t be eaten past it’s “use by” date, it could have grown harmful bacteria and make you sick. However, the “best before” date is more a recommendation. The food is still fine to eat, it just might not be in prime condition. It may be slightly soggy, or stale but definitely not harmful.

Myth #10:

Plastic chopping boards are safer than wooden ones.

Let’s settle this argument once and for all. A scientific study found that bacteria on wooden boards was able to sink beneath the surface, hiding from your scrubbing brush. However, once they were there, they couldn’t multiply and soon died off. Similarly, knife grooves in plastic chopping boards often harbour bacteria – though they couldn’t sink down and so are easier to wash away. The verdict? As long as you thoroughly clean both types of board, there’s virtually no difference between them.

If you’d like to further your food safety knowledge, then why not browse our Food Hygiene courses? We have an array of courses available, including Food Hygiene Level 1 training, Food Hygiene Level 2 training and Food Hygiene Level 3 training online.

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