Food safety is not just a nice idea. If your restaurant or foodservice establishment doesn’t follow the food safety guidelines, you may find yourself out of business and facing a massive lawsuit.
But there is a lot of incorrect information about food safety floating out there. We call them food safety myths.
That’s why it’s crucial that your employees are well trained in food safety facts and passionate about maintaining a safe and clean workplace—both in the front of the house and back of the house. All you need is one improperly trained employee making one mistake and you are in big trouble.
Don’t believe these food safety myths
Erroneous food safety information
A great source of facts and information is FoodSafety.gov. Some of the myths they’ve found both in homes and restaurants include:
- Food poisoning isn’t a big deal. Wrong! Food poisoning is a big deal. About 3,000 Americans die a year from foodborne illnesses.
- To thaw meat, leave it out on the counter. Don’t do that! Bacteria grow quickly at room temperature. Thaw meat in the refrigerator, instead. It takes longer, but the lower temperature slows down the bacteria growth. You can also thaw meat in cold water or in a microwave.
- There is no reason to wash fruits and vegetables if they are going to be peeled. As you peel and cut your produce, you transfer bacteria (and other nasty stuff like pesticides) from the outside skin to the inside. Always first wash all produce in clean running water before slicing and peeling.
- Rinsing meat, poultry, or seafood removes the bacteria. Rinsing can splash water and juices from the meat onto counters and other food prep surfaces. The best way to kill the bacteria is to cook the food to the right temperature on the outside and the inside. Always use a meat thermometer.
- If it doesn’t smell, it’s ok to serve. The bad bacteria in food poisoning can’t be smelled, seen, or tasted. Instead, follow the guidelines to know when to throw food out. Of course, if the food does look, smell, or taste bad, throw it out immediately.
- You can safely marinate foods at room temperature. No, you can’t. Just like thawing foods on the counter, foods marinated at room temperature grow bacteria much faster. And the acid in the marinade does not kill bacteria. Always marinate in the refrigerator.
- Soaps and detergents will get my produce clean.gov says soaps and detergents don’t always rinse off and can cause harm. They recommend using clean running water to wash produce.
More food safety mistakes that will make you sick
It’s remarkable how many wrong things people believe about proper food handling. Are you still doing any of these? If you are, then stop it.
- Kill bacteria by freezing. Freezing makes the bacteria inactive but doesn’t kill. Like a hibernating bear, when the temperatures get warmer, the germs get more active again.
- “I rinsed my hands, that should be enough.” You know those signs in your restrooms about all employees must wash their hands before returning to work? Notice those signs say “wash” not “rinse”. The sign may even give instructions: Use warm water and soap. Scrub your hands for 15-30 seconds. Use a clean paper towel or air dryer to dry them. One thing they don’t say: If possible, don’t touch the door with your hands on the way out. Use a paper towel to open the door.
- Cooking kills all bacteria forever. Not exactly. Cooking kills most of the bacteria. But once the food cools down, the bacteria start growing again. Be careful when letting cooked foods sit and cool below 135˚F/57˚C.
- A food thermometer is not always necessary. Some people think they can tell when a food – especially a meat – is cooked by looking at it. No they can’t. Use a food thermometer.
- Cross-contamination is no big deal. Doesn’t it gross you out to think of salad vegetables getting chopped up on the same board, with the same knife, that someone just used to cut raw chicken? Rinsing the surface or utensil isn’t enough. All items must be cleaned and sanitized. Even better, use different boards, knives, etc. for different foods – poultry, meat, seafood, and vegetable.
Learn the facts about proper food handling
There are many more myths and misconceptions about food safety. Make sure you know the facts with our online training. Learn2Serve offers ANSI-approved food handler training. Sign up today to complete your online course.