By: Pooja Sharma

One of our favorite food safety myths is the “5 Second Rule” or eating something within 5 seconds of it dropping on the floor. Sadly, the myth has been debunked. Did you know there are still other commonly held food safety myths that should be talked about? Let’s take a look at some of the most popular myths and understand the truth behind them.

Myth #1: I am a vegan or a vegetarian, so food safety isn’t that big of a concern for me.

It’s true that chicken and seafood are the first to blame for in an event of food poisoning but there is a high and an equally likely chance of the culprit being your salad. Cross contamination of fresh produce in the fields or during food handling is possible too. There have been an increase in cases of lettuce, celery, tomatoes, etc. becoming contaminated with E. coli, Salmonella etc. Anything that grows on or in the ground has a chance of contamination as the soil is the source of these pathogens. Therefore, it is advised that you wash your veggies and fruits properly before consuming them. Do not use bleach, as the produce will not be safe for eating.

Myth #2: To make sure that meat, poultry, and seafood are free from any bacteria, it is important that you rinse off any juices with running water.

This should NOT be done at any cost. The only way to make sure that meat, poultry, and seafood you are consuming are safe is to thaw properly and cook at a safe temperature. When you run water on the meats that you are eating, you are splashing the liquid all over the kitchen. This liquid can contaminate your kitchen surfaces and any other food lying around quite easily. And let’s not to forget how fast the pathogens can multiply at room temperature.

Myth #3: Leftovers can be eaten until they smell bad.

Well, not necessarily. Sometimes, the pathogen in a food has already reached to levels where they can easily cause infection without causing any fishy odor. Within 2 hours of cooking or keeping the food hot, it is necessary that you store the leftovers in the fridge. All leftover food even in the fridge has to be consumed within 3-4 days. You have to reheat them again to the proper temperature though. Any packaged meat or salads will have the storage instructions written on them.

Myth #4: It is okay to marinate on the counter as marinades are acidic which can kill the bacteria.

Acidic nature of marinades play no role, whatsoever, in killing the bacteria. Pathogens can go very easily at room temperature. Therefore, it is quite important that you marinade all the meat, poultry and seafood in the refrigerator. Use food safe plastic bags, stainless steel or glass containers to safely put the food inside the refrigerator so that the fluids do not leak out of the containers. You can store the marinated poultry for up to 3 days. Beef, lamb roasts, steak etc. can be marinated for up to 5 days.

Myth #5: You can still have the food if you pick it up from the ground within 5 seconds.

Sadly, the “5 Second Rule” is not true. And the germs do stick to the food even within that time. According to a research conducted by Dr. Ronald Carter from Queen Mary, University of London the germs stick on the food almost instantly. He dropped samples of toast, apple and pizza onto different surfaces. All the samples that were dropped were covered in germs as compared to those that were not dropped.

Myth #6: Food poisoning by rice is not possible.

Bacillus Cereus is found in soil and found in foods that are grown in soil like legumes, spices etc. The spores are present in rice and are generally dormant. But, it can grow when given the needed moist and warm conditions. Therefore, it is advised to eat the rice as and when it is cooked. It should not be kept at room temperature for more than 2-3 hours. You need to refrigerate the rice as soon as possible. You can reheat and have the rice no later than 24 hours.

Myth #7: Plastic chopping boards are much safer to use than wooden chopping boards.

There is actually no difference in the boards. None of them is safer than the other. In fact, a study published by University of California found that even though bacteria did seep into the wooden chopping board, the bacteria could not multiply further. Since the juices from raw meat can get absorbed into the wooden chopping boards, they were considered unsafe. But, that is now being debunked. Both the boards are safe to use as long as you clean them properly. Although, you should make sure that you do not use the same cutting board for meat, poultry and seafood as you do for vegetables and fruits.

Myth #8: Cross Contamination cannot happen in the fridge as it is too cold.

That is not true at all. Cross contamination can easily happen in the fridge between raw juices of raw meat, poultry and seafood and fruits, veggies or any other ready-to-eat food. If there is any raw chicken in the fridge that is not properly packed, then the juices from it might drip down and contaminate other foods.

Myth #9: I do not need to wash fruits that I am going to eat after peeling them.

It is true that you are not going to eat the outer skin but it is also true that you might contaminate the edible portion due to the outer skin. This is because knife or your hands might pass on the pathogen from the outer skin to the inside part of the food. Therefore, it is advised that you wash all the produce properly before eating it.

Myth #10: I don’t need to clean this refrigerator bin because I only put fruits and vegetables in there.

A study has proven that the refrigerator produce compartment was the germiest area of the refrigerator. It is recommended to clean all the areas of your refrigerator thoroughly from time to time to avoid food poisoning. You should use liquid soap and water and then, use clean cloth to dry all the areas before starting to rearrange the items.