Fact vs Fiction

Fiction: Lemon juice and salt will clean and sanitize a cutting board

Fact: Sanitizing is the process of reducing the number of microorganisms that are on a properly cleaned surface to a safe level to reduce risk of foodborne illness.  The most effective way to sanitize a cutting board as well as other kitchen surfaces is with a diluted bleach and water solution.

To clean and sanitize your cutting board first wash it with hot water and soap.  Then sanitize it by using diluted chlorine bleach solution – just 1 teaspoon unscented liquid bleach (not more) to 1 gallon of water.  Let the bleach solution stand on the surface for a few minutes; then rinse and blot dry with clean paper towels.  It is important to clean and disinfect – just because a surface looks clean, doesn’t mean it is free of disease-causing bacteria.


Fiction: You should not put hot food in the refrigerator.

Fact: Hot food can be placed directly in the refrigerator.  A large pot of food like soup or stew should be divided into small portions and put in shallow containers for quicker cooling in the refrigerator.  If you leave food out to cook and forget about it then toss it.  Food is not safe to eat after sitting out at room temperature for more than 2 hours.  Bacteria grow rapidly in the “danger zone” between 40oF and 140oF.  Always follow the “two hour rule” – refrigerate perishable foods within two hours at a refrigerator temperature of 40F or below.  And if left out in a room or outdoors where the temperature is 90F or hotter, food should be refrigerated or discarded within just 1 hour.


Fiction: Putting chicken in a colander and rinsing it with water will remove bacteria like salmonella.

Fact: Rinsing poultry in a colander will not remove bacteria.  In fact, it can spread raw juices around your sink, onto your countertops, and onto ready-to-eat foods.  Bacteria in raw meat and poultry can only be killed when cooked to a safe internal temperature, which for poultry is 165F, as measured with a food thermometer.  Save yourself the messiness of rinsing raw poultry.  It is not a safety step and can cause cross-contamination.


Fiction: Once a hamburger turns brown in the middle it is cooked to a safe internal temperature.

Fact: You cannot use visual cues to determine whether food has been cooked to a safe internal temperature.  The ONLY way to know that food has been cooked to a safe internal temperature is to use a food thermometer.  Ground meat should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 160F, as measured by a food thermometer.


Fiction: It’s okay to “double dip” a piece of food.

Fact: It’s true: 38% of Americans admit to “double dipping” at holiday parties.  (That means they dip a chip or vegetable into a bowl of dip or salsa, bite off half, and then dip again.)  While this may be the season for sharing, when it comes to dipping, one time is enough.


Fiction: I use bleach and water to sanitize my countertops and the more bleach I use the more bacteria I kill.

Fact: There is no advantage to using more bleach.  In fact, overuse of bleach can be harmful because it is not safe to consume.  To create a sanitizing solution it is recommended that you use 1 tablespoon of unscented liquid bleach per gallon of water or, for a smaller amount of solution, ¾ teaspoon liquid bleach to 1 quart of water.  Flood the countertop with the solution, allow to air dry.  Any leftover sanitizing solution can be stored, tightly covered, for up to one week.  After that, the bleach has lost its effectiveness.


Fiction: I don’t need to wash my produce if I am going to peel it.

Fact: You should wash fresh fruits and vegetables under running tap water just before eating, cutting or cooking.  Harmful bacteria could be on the outside of the produce.  If you peel or cut it without first washing it the bacteria could be transferred to the part you eat.  Wash delicate produce such as grapes or lettuce under cool running water.  Blot dry with a clean cloth towel or paper towel.  Rub firm-skin fruits and vegetables under running tap water or scrub with a clean produce brush.  Never use detergent or bleach to wash fresh fruits or vegetables.  These products are not intended for consumption.


Fiction: The stand time recommended for microwaveable foods is optional it’s just so you don’t burn yourself.

Fact: Stand time is not about cooling the microwaved food, but rather is an important part of the cooking process.  Stand times are usually just a few minutes and the time is necessary to bring the food to a safe internal temperature as measured with a food thermometer.  To ensure safety with microwave cooking, always read and follow the package instructions, know your microwave’s wattage, and use a food thermometer to ensure food has reached a safe internal temperature.


Fiction: Leftovers are safe to eat until they smell bad.

Fact: Most people would not choose to eat spoiled, smelly food.  However, if they did, they would not necessarily get sick.  This is because there are different types of bacteria, some of which cause illness in people and others that don’t.  They types of bacteria that do cause illness do not affect the taste, smell, or appearance of food.  For this reason it is important to freezer or toss refrigerated leftovers within 3-4 days.  If you are unsure of how long your leftovers have been sitting in the refrigerator, don’t take the risk – when in doubt, throw it out!


Myth: Freezing foods kills harmful bacteria that can cause food poisoning?

Fact: Bacteria can survive freezing temperatures.  Freezing 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 best way to kill harmful bacteria.  Use a thermometer to measure the temperature of cooked foods.


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 like other foods they mat 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” do not need to be re-washed.


Myth: Plastic or glass cutting boards don’t hold harmful bacteria on their surfaces like wooden cutting boards do.

Fact:   Any type of cutting board can hold harmful bacteria on its surface.  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.


Myth: Locally grown, organic foods will never give me food poisoning.

Fact: Any food, whether organic or conventional, could become unsafe with illness-causing foodborne bacteria at any point during the chain from the farm to the table.  Consumers in their homes can take action to keep their families safe.  That is why it is important to reduce your risk of foodborne illness by practicing the four steps: Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill.