IFT member Christine Bruhn, Director of the Center for Consumer Research at University of California-Davis, dispels some common myths about foodborne illness and gives tips on how to prevent it.

#1: The taste of food will tell you if it’s bad.
Myth:  Not true at all! Foods that are contaminated with lysteria, E. coli, salmonella, etc., can all taste great.

#2: Once a food is cooked, it’s safe to leave out for hours.
Myth: If you've cooked something and have leftovers, you've got two hours to get those leftovers in the refrigerator and get them cold in order to prevent the spread of bacteria. Thin-walled metal, glass or plastic containers that are shallow (no more than 2 inches deep) are ideal for storage. Bags, foil and plastic wrap also work well, especially if you have a piece of food that is large or oddly shaped.  

#3: You can tell by your eyes if something is adequately cooked.
Myth: Not so. You need to use a food thermometer.  Recent research from Kansas State showed that a quarter of the burgers turned brown before they reached the recommended 160 degrees Fahrenheit.  

#4: Foodborne illness can happen within a few hours.
Fact: The most common ones, such as staphylococcus or clostridium happen within a few minutes to a few hours, and you can feel really awful, but last for only about a day or so.  However if you have one of the more serious ones such as salmonella or certain strains of E. coli, it takes longer for illness to appear. Sometimes several days can go by. Illness from listeria can take two months before symptoms appear, and you get really sick.  Fortunately, most foodborne illnesses are not fatal.

#5: Preventing Foodborne Illness is Easy:
Fact: The most common way to avoid foodborne illness is by washing your hands.  In a study where people were videotaped in their own kitchen, only half of them washed their hands before starting to prepare food. 

Keep your kitchen spotlessly clean by washing the cooking area, the preparation area, knives, cutting boards, and utensils to avoid spreading bacteria throughout the kitchen.  In addition, the refrigerator should be cleaned because bacteria can grow, albeit slowly, in many environments including inside your refrigerator. 

More Food Facts

Amping up Sweetness without the Calories

For most of us, balancing the desire to reduce sugar intake with our love of sweet foods and drinks is a constant battle.

Sugars: A Scientific Overview

There are myths, fads, and misconceptions associated with various aspects of our food supply, such as food additives and ingredients. Concerns and questions about sugars (caloric sweeteners) in foods have arisen.

The Microbiome: You are What You Eat

The microbiome is the genetic material of all our microbes—bacteria, fungi, protozoa and viruses - that live on and inside the human body. Microbes outnumber our human cells ten to one.

More from IFT right arrow

Ingredient Suppliers Serve Up Recipes for Reinvention

SHIFT20 took attendees on a virtual tour of the latest products, services, insights, and technologies that are shaping the science of food and ringing in a new era of innovation.

Fruits and veggies help stave off dementia; Healthy trends drive beverage sales

News about food science research, food companies, food regulations, and consumer/marketplace trends.

Reducing Food Waste via Active Packaging

Waste from packaged food exacts a substantial environmental toll, but turning to sustainable new technologies has the potential to lessen its carbon footprint.

A Decade of Food Attitudes

Changes in American consumers’ perceptions, beliefs, and behaviors with respect to food and food purchasing decisions since 2010.

Transparency influences shopper trust; Are vegetarians less extroverted?

News about food science research, food companies, food regulations, and consumer/marketplace trends.

IFTNEXT

Sucralose–carbohydrate combo may affect insulin sensitivity

A study found that people who drank beverages that contained the low-calorie sweetener sucralose did experience metabolic problems and issues with neural responses but only when the beverage was formulated with both sucralose and a tasteless sugar (maltodextrin).

The health benefits of fermented soy products

While investigating the link between consumption of soy products and all-cause mortality, researchers in Japan found that a higher intake of fermented soy products, such as natto and miso, was associated with a lower risk of mortality.

Researchers think coconut oil may help treat COVID-19 patients

As millions of patients and healthcare workers around the world fight COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, a group of scientists believe one potential treatment for the virus is already found on grocery store shelves: Virgin coconut oil (VCO).