Myth: Leftovers are safe to eat until they smell bad.
FACT: Most people by choice would not eat spoiled, smelly food. There are different types of bacteria, some cause illness and some do not. The food bacteria that make us sick do not have a specific taste, smell or appearance so we can be actually fooled into thinking last Tuesday’s lunch is still safe to eat.
The general rule of thumb on leftovers is to consume them within three days or freeze them. If you are not sure how long those meat and potatoes have been in the fridge, toss them out!
Food for thought: bacteria spreads fastest at temperatures between 40-140ºF, so refrigerating foods properly is one of the best defenses against food poisoning.
Myth: Bleach and water are a good sanitizing solution for my counter tops, so the more bleach I use the more bacteria I kill.
FACT: There are no extra advantages to using more bleach. In fact, overuse of bleach can be harmful because it is toxic if ingested. The sanitizing formula that should be used is one tablespoon of unscented bleach per gallon of water. Flood the countertop with the solution, let it sit for a few minutes, then pat dry with clean, dry paper towels or allow it to air dry. Any leftover solution can be stored in a tightly, covered container for up to one week.
Food for thought: bacteria can be spread rapidly in a kitchen whether at home or in foodservice. Cleaning and sanitizing hands, surfaces, utensils, cutting boards, can openers and countertops often can help prevent the spread of bacteria.
Myth: There is no need to wash my produce if I’m going to peel it.
FACT: You should always 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 and spread to the inside once the fruit is peeled or cut. Be sure to 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 produce.
Food for thought: Separate – Don’t cross contaminate! Cross contamination is how bacteria spread. Always keep raw meat, fish, poultry and seafood and their juices away from ready-to-eat foods and raw produce.
Myth: Stand time for foods cooked in the microwave is optional, but you don’t have to do it.
FACT: Stand time is not about cooling the food, but letting it finish cooking. Stand times are usually just a few minutes and the time is necessary to bring food to a safe internal temperature.
Food for thought: Always cook foods to the proper internal temperature, using a food thermometer to check it.
Use these tips to follow food safety rules in your kitchen and prevent food borne illness.
For more information contact Mandy G. Armentor, MS, RD, LDN, Assoc. Extension Agent (FCS-Nutrition), in the Vermilion Parish LSU AgCenter Office at 1105 W. Port St. in Abbeville or call 898-4335.