Much of what we know–or think we know–about food safety is actually a myth. Many of these are lessons that we learned from our own families, while others are “facts” we picked up from dubious sources.
To avoid passing on these urban food legends to your own children, let’s set the record straight.
Wash Raw Chicken
This food safety myth has been debunked countless times, yet some people still think that raw chicken should be washed under the sink. When you rinse a chicken breast with cold water, you merely spread any surface bacteria around. Suddenly, your sink, countertops, and any nearby dishes or appliances could be splattered with salmonella!
As long as you cook chicken to a safe internal temperature of 165 degrees, all bacteria will be killed. You should, however, wash your hands with antibacterial soap after handling raw meat. You should not reuse the same tools without washing them first to avoid cross-contamination.
The Five Second Rule
Bad news! There’s no such thing as the “five second rule.” The idea is that if you drop food on the ground, it’s fine as long as you pick it up quickly. While it’s possible that food could become more contaminated the longer it stays on the ground, the sad truth is that once it hits the floor, that tasty morsel should not be eaten.
Expiration Dates Are Firm Deadlines
Are you the type of parent or guardian who throws out food the day it expires? You could be wasting perfectly good groceries! Many food products are actually labeled with a “best by” date, not a hard expiration date. Those foods won’t get any better after that date, but they’re not unsafe to eat, either.
With dairy products, you may want to exercise a little more caution when you’re caring for very young children or people with compromised immune systems. Watch for changes in color, texture, and especially smell before eating any food, regardless of the date on the package.
Defrost Food on the Counter
If you need to defrost food, leaving it on the counter could help it reach room temperature faster. But it could also help bacteria thrive as the outside of the food thaws long before the middle. Essentially, you’re leaving raw food on the counter for hours. Not a smart move!
The best way to thaw food is in the fridge. Otherwise, a microwave on the “defrost” setting is your best bet.