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Mythbusters: Debunking Myths about Food Safety in the Home!

Most fresh fruits and vegetables do NOT need to be washed at home.Whether it’s about microwaving, washing bagged greens, using a food thermometer, or refreezing foods, you hear a lot of things about food safety that aren’t true.

But, just in time for September’s National Food Safety Education Month, the non-profit Partnership for Food Safety Education , in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, is launching its annual Food Safety Mythbusters, a campaign to correct common misconceptions about food safety.

For 2012 the list of things that aren’t true includes:

Myth: “If I microwave food, the microwaves kill the bacteria, so the food is safe.”

Fact: Microwaves don’t kill bacteria – microwaves generate heat that kills bacteria in foods. Microwave ovens are great time-savers and will kill bacteria when foods are heated to a safe internal temperature. But microwaved foods can cook unevenly because of irregular shapes or variations in thickness. Even turntable-equipped microwave ovens can cook unevenly and leave cold spots where harmful bacteria can survive.

Follow package instructions that call for rotating and stirring foods during the cooking process. Observe any called-for stand times—the amount of time after cooking that microwaved food should stand before it is eaten. Check the temperature of microwaved foods with a food thermometer in several spots.

Myth: “Of course I wash all bagged lettuce and greens because it might make me sick if I don’t.”

Fact: While it’s important to thoroughly wash most fresh fruits and vegetables, if packaged greens are labeled “ready-to-eat,” “washed,” or “triple washed” then the product does NOT need to be washed at home. Pre-washed greens have been through a cleaning process immediately before going into the bag. Re-washing and handling the greens creates opportunities for contamination.

Always handle pre-washed greens with clean hands, and make sure cutting boards, utensils, and countertops are clean.

WATCH a video (FDA) on Safe Handling of Raw Produce and Fresh-Squeezed Fruit and Vegetable Juices.

Myth: “I don’t need to use a food thermometer. I can tell when my food is cooked by looking at it or checking the temperature with my finger.”

Fact: The only sure way to know food has reached a safe internal temperature is to check it with a food thermometer. Color, texture, and steaming can’t confirm that a food is safe to eat. The outside of a food might be steaming hot, but there may be cold spots inside. To ensure that a food is safely cooked, and not overcooked, check it with a food thermometer. Clean your food thermometer with soap and water after each use.

Myth: “I can’t re-freeze foods after I have thawed them – I have to cook them or throw them away.”

Fact: Raw foods such as meat, poultry, egg products, and seafood thawed in the refri gerator, may be safely re-frozen without cooking for later use. Never let raw foods thaw sitting on the kitchen counter. If raw foods are thawed outside of the refrigerator, for example in the microwave or in cool water, they should be cooked immediately. Never re-freeze raw or not fully cooked foods that have been thawed outside of the refrigerator.

More myths busted:

Read the 2011 Mythbusters blog (FoodSafety.gov)

Learn the top 10 food safety myths (FoodSafety.gov)

More information on safe food handling (FDA)

If you have other food safety questions feel free to contact us at the Hotline (888-674-6854) or online at AskKaren.gov (FDA)

Please continue the discussion on our Facebook page.

TaggedMicrowave | Packaged Food | Convenience Food