Food safety is under the spotlight all month. In recent years, I’ve found the Partnership for Food Safety Education to be a particularly valuable source for ideas for programs on food safety. They have started a Facebook and website campaign revolving around the myths that people have about food borne illness. Here are a couple of myths that I run into on a regular basis.
Lots of folks think that bacteria are destroyed by freezing foods. But it’s only cooking temperature that will destroy the harmful bacteria. And how do we know that we’ve reached those desired cooking temperatures? By using a thermometer – a topic that I discussed at length in a previous post.
MYTH: Plastic or glass cutting boards don’t hold harmful bacteria on their surfaces like wooden cutting boards do.
I use all of these types of cutting boards. I understand that they all can harbor bacteria and that they all need to be washed and sanitized. With my plastic cutting boards, I use a color-coding system. I use my colored boards for meat, fish or poultry. I reserve my white cutting boards for vegetables and bread. All of my plastic and glass cutting boards I purchased just the right size that they fit in my dishwasher. Thus they are thoroughly cleaned and sanitized in the dishwasher because dishwasher detergent contains chlorine bleach. I also use wooden cutting boards. These too must be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized after use. Because I’m not willing to put these in the dishwasher, I only use them for cutting homemade bread and then I wash them by hand and thoroughly dry them. A good tip to remember is that once any cutting board gets worn, it should be discarded and replaced.
MYTH: You should not put hot food in the refrigerator.
My mother always said that hot food needed to sit on the counter to cool before it was covered and put in the refrigerator…other wise it would sour – whatever that is! (My mother was big on putting things on the countertop, particularly frozen meat.) The truth of the matter is that hot food can be put directly into the refrigerator. We are using modern appliances these days and no longer rely on ice to cool our food. (That’s probably the root of the myth. Hot food into the ice box would definitely cause the ice to melt. ) Large amounts of food like a big stockpot of soup should be broken down into smaller containers so that the refrigerator can cool it efficiently. You can allow food to cool at room temperature for up to two hours. If you forget about it and it is past two hours, you’ll have to throw it out.