There are a lot of facts around food safety, and then there are a lot of… conceptions.
Well it turns out that many of those ‘conceptions’ are actually misconceptions, and instead of being concrete facts are just rumours and hearsay pretending to be the real deal. Let us help you differentiate by showing you once and for all what’s true, and what’s not.
10. Defrosted Meat Cannot Be Refrozen
It’s a pretty common ‘fact’ according to most people that once you have defrosted meat, it can’t be refrozen. That means if you don’t use it, you need to throw it out, turning it into yet more food waste. The good news is this is totally wrong.
Fact: Meat that has been defrosted in the fridge, like beef or chicken, can absolutely be refrozen again to be used at a later date. The meat might not be as juicy, making it better for casseroles or slow-cooked meals, but it’s still good to go!
9. Meat Should Be Washed Before Cooking
For some reason, a lot of people think that it’s necessary to wash meat, in particular chicken, before cooking and using it. This is definitely wrong.
Fact: It’s a really bad idea to wash both meat and poultry in the cooking process, as splashing water from washing may spread potentially problematic bacteria around your kitchen, or on other foods that won’t be cooked. You should always wash fruits and vegetables, but only in a space that has not been contaminated with raw meats.
8. Cool Hot Food Before Putting It Into The Fridge
Fact: This one is little more complicated. It is true that very hot food put into the refrigerator can raise the temperature of the fridge above the safety level for bacteria growth. However, this doesn’t mean that you should leave your food on the countertop until it is cold. In fact, it’s bad for food to sit for too long outside of the fridge, encouraging bacteria growth and increasing the risk of illness. Instead, wait for the food to stop steaming before refrigerating, and put into more than one small container to cool it faster.
7. If It Smells ok, IT IS OK.
Ah the smell test, we might dread it just in case it comes up foul but we know that if something smells good, that usually means it is good, right? WRONG!
Fact: As it turns out, the smell test is a terrible way to gauge whether food is good to eat. This is because although some kinds of spoilage bacteria, moulds and yeasts can make things smell bad, other pathogenic bacteria can grow in food without changing the smell or look of the food. Keep a close eye on the food in your fridge, paying attention to the date it was purchased or cooked, to avoid a food poisoning risk.
6. Cross-Contamination Doesn’t Happen In The Fridge
Cross-contamination is what happens when bacteria from one food (often a raw food like meat) comes into contact with another food (like vegetables that aren’t cooked prior to being eaten). Bacteria on raw food is destroyed and made safe in the cooking process, but doesn’t happen when it comes into contact with foods that can be eaten raw like leafy greens and fruit. Many people believe that cross-contamination cannot happen in a fridge because it’s cold. This is false.
Fact: Your fridge can still be a breeding ground for bacteria like this so separate raw meat from other items, and always keep your fridge clean.
5. Overloading Your Fridge Makes It Work Harder
We know, you’ve got a family to feed and your fridge is brimming with food, but this might not be a good thing. Many people have the idea that the more food that’s in your fridge the harder the appliance will work. In fact this isn’t true at all.
Fact: Fridges work by circulating cool air around the space, so the more food there is, the less air that can get around. Obviously, you need your fridge to store food, but try to keep it uncluttered as much as possible, and avoid stuffing empty spaces with additional food. You’re risking making people sick.
4. Defrosting Your Food On The Counter Is Ok
When you shop on a weekly or fortnightly basis, it’s almost guaranteed that at some point, you’ll be defrosting meat on the counter. Don’t do this.
Fact: Defrosting meat on the counter is never a good idea, and it puts all the people eating it at risk of a food-borne illness. Defrosting meat in the fridge is the far smarter option as the meat remains cool while it’s thawing. On a counter the outer layer of the meat, which defrosts faster, heats up and is able to be infected with bacteria before the inside of the meat is even thawed.
3. After The ‘Best Before’ Date, You Can’t Eat It
There is a difference between the ‘best before’ date and the ‘use by’ date, so let us clear it up.
Fact: The ‘use by’ date is when foods are unsafe to eat and need to be eaten or thrown away on that day. Foods cannot be sold after their ‘use by’ date as they could have a build-up of unsafe bacteria. The ‘best before’ date is simply the manufacturer’s way of saying that the product might not be of the same quality. It’s still safe to eat, as long as it isn’t damaged or deteriorated, and as long as the foods are stored correctly, you won’t notice the difference. So don’t throw your foods away just because the ‘best before’ date has passed, they’re likely ok.
2. Plastic Chopping Boards Are Better Than Wooden Ones
Fact: There’s been some debate about plastic chopping boards vs. wooden chopping boards, but there’s no indicator that plastic chopping boards are in any way better. In both cases, you should be very careful to take care of, wash and store chopping boards to minimise bacteria. It’s also important to use different chopping boards when cutting raw meats and vegetables to stop cross-contamination. Many people aren’t aware, but chopping boards need to be replaced when badly scratched or scored as these marks become bacteria breeding grounds.
1. Food Poisoning Happens Most Often At Bad Restaurants
You might think that food poisoning most often occurs when you go to a dodgy restaurant, but in fact you’re wrong.
Fact: There aren’t any concrete stats on where food poisoning is most common, but because you probably eat most meals at home, that seems the most likely place. When you don’t practice good food hygiene, it’s easy for foods to become contaminated with bad bacteria, and the resulting food poisoning can have serious consequences. Interestingly, if you do get sick, there’s no guarantee that the last meal you ate was the culprit, so think carefully about it so it doesn’t happen again. Food poisoning is no joke, and food safety is so easy, you’ll be kicking yourself for slacking off.
These are hard truths that some of us might be guilty of. But it’s not too late to add a new year’s resolution such as overhauling your fridge this year with these debunked food safety myths. Prevention is still the best cure.