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Some Facts About Food Safety Fictions for National Food Safety Education Month​

National Food Safety Education Month

September is National Food Safety Education Month and the Partnership for Food Safety Education, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration want consumers to know the facts about some frequently-heard myths about produce, cross contamination and the growth of harmful pathogens that cause food poisoning.

MYTH:  It’s OK to wash bagged greens if I want to.  There's no harm.

FACT:  Your intuition says giving bagged greens labeled “ready-to-eat,” “washed,” or “triple washed” an extra rinse couldn’t possibly hurt.  Your intuition would be wrong:  rinsing of ready-to-eat greens will not enhance safety, but could increase the potential for cross-contamination.  Pathogens that may be on your hands or on kitchen surfaces could find their way onto your greens in the process of handling them.

MYTH:  Cross contamination doesn’t happen in the refrigerator – it’s too cold in there for germs to survive.

FACT:  Some bacteria can survive and even grow in cool, moist environments like the refrigerator. In fact, Listeria monocytogenes grows at temperatures as low as 35.6 °F! A recent study revealed that the refrigerator produce compartment was one of the “germiest” places in the kitchen, containing Salmonella and Listeria. In your refrigerator, keep fresh fruits and vegetables separate from raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs. Clean your refrigerator regularly with hot water and soap and clean up food and beverage spills immediately to reduce the risk of cross-contamination.  Don’t forget to clean refrigerator walls and the undersides of shelves.

MYTH:  It’s only important to rinse fresh fruits and vegetables for safety.  I don't need to dry them too.

FACT:  Using a clean cloth or paper towel to blot dry fresh fruits and vegetables after rinsing is more important than you might realize. Research has found this drying step further reduces the level of harmful bacteria on the surface of fresh produce. Take a two-step approach to cleaning your produce: 1) just before use, rinse under running water only the fruits and vegetables you plan to eat, including those with skins or rinds that are not eaten;  and 2) dry fruits and vegetables with a clean cloth or paper towel.

MYTH:  I don't need to rinse this melon for safety -- the part I eat is on the inside.

FACT:  Sure, you’re not eating the rind of the melon, but there are many ways for pathogens on the outside of the melon to contaminate the edible part. A knife or peeler passing through the rind can carry pathogens from the outside into the flesh of the melon. The rind also touches the edible portion when cut fruit is arranged or stacked for serving or garnish. Play it safe and rinse your melon under running tap water while rubbing with your clean hands or scrubbing with a clean brush. Dry the melon with a clean cloth or paper towel. Remember: once you’ve used a towel to wipe hands or surfaces, it may look clean and still contain harmful bacteria.

Fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet. Like any raw fresh foods, naturally occurring bacteria in fresh fruits and vegetables can cause food poisoning.   Consumers and health educators can access information on safe selection and handling of fresh produce at these links:

Raw Produce: Selecting and Serving it Safely

Test Your Produce Safety Savvy

Posted in: Food SafetyTagged: Food Safety