Food myths and mistakes can sicken and kill, so let us mention a few here.
Common myth: cooking kills all bacteria. In truth, bacteria thrive on cooked food once it cools down even a little. Because of this, it is important to keep cooked food warm if not consumed immediately.
Common myth: It is all right to eat leftovers unless they smell bad. This is untrue. Many types of harmful bacteria do not create “off” odors or tastes.
Common myth: Wash fruits and vegetables with soap. In actuality, the soap residue can be harmful. Clean running water is the best way to remove bacteria.
Common myth: I should let food cool on the counter before refrigerating. In actuality, harmful bacteria can infest the food within an hour or two. Cool the food for five to ten minutes so you can handle the dish and then immediately refrigerate.
Common myth: The acids in a marinade kill all bacteria, so I can marinate at room temperature. This is just plain false. Always marinate in the refrigerator. Reuse marinade as a sauce only if you boil it first.
Common myth: Rinsing meats and poultry reduces bacteria. It doesn’t, since the water splashes around and can actually spread the bacteria.
Common myth: A vegetarian diet cannot lead to foodborne illness. While fruits and vegetables are associated with fewer bacterial problems than meats, produce has been responsible in recent years for a number of outbreaks. It pays to treat any food as a possible source of harmful bacteria. The same caution applies to locally grown and organic foods.
Common myth: Glass and plastic cutting boards resist bacteria. This is false. These boards can harbor as much bacteria as a wooden cutting board (the bacteria mostly come from the food itself). One advantage is that they are easier to sanitize in a dishwasher, however.
Common myth: Microwaves kill bacteria. In truth, the heat generated by a microwave oven is what kills the bacteria. It is essential to cook the food in the microwave for an adequate length of time, including recommended stirring and resting, to kill as many bacteria as possible.
Common myth: If you drop food on the floor, it is safe to eat if you pick it up within five seconds. This is just plain nonsense. If there are germs on the floor (and there usually are), they will adhere to the food immediately and do their best to multiply.