Food safety: fact from fiction

WITH the weather trying its very best this summer and the World Cup well underway, there are no end of opportunities to turn up the heat and enjoy a barbecue.

Maybe with some nice chicken. Perhaps prepared with a quick wash in the sink? Possibly exposing yourself and everyone around you to potentially fatal food poisoning.

A shocking new report found that 44% of people wash chicken in tap water before cooking it, thinking it’ll remove germs. But instead, they’re inadvertently spreading a potentially lethal bacteria called Campylobacter. If you hadn’t heard of Campylobacter, it’s a leading cause of food poisoning.

“Washing raw chicken can splash this harmful bacteria around your kitchen,” explains Bob Martin, an expert in food safety.

So what other myths need busting?

The ’x-second’ rule

Everyone has a different take on this, but who’s really right? The two-second rulers? The five, or ten-second believers? As it turns out, none of us are correct. “The real rule is don’t eat food that’s dropped on the floor, it just isn’t worth the risk,” says Martin.

You can always smell when food’s bad

Another popular saying peddled out whenever the office milk starts to look a little weary but no one can be bothered to buy any more. Popular, but wrong. A bit of mould won’t hurt. The official advice is not to consumer visibly mouldy foods.“Mould does not usually cause food poisoning, but some species can produce mycotoxins. Depending on the type and amount, mycotoxins could cause either short-term illness or contribute to various health conditions over a longer period of time,” says Martin.

Sell by dates? Use by dates?

This one’s true and false. “Best before dates relate to quality, so food past it should not pose a safety risk. Sell by or display until dates are put there to help shop staff with stock rotation, so consumers can ignore these,” Martin says.“Use by dates are the most important food date as these relate to food safety. It’s not legal to sell food past its Use by date and you should never eat food where this date has expired.”

Unwashed fruit’s good for your system

Simple answer: no, it’s not. “We advise washing fruit before eating, as it’s not possible to ensure they have been picked, handled or stored hygienically.”

Never, ever re-heat rice

The food safety rule most hammered home, is actually, oddly, not that bad. “It should be fine to reheat cooked rice that’s been kept in the fridge, provided it’s been cooled and stored carefully,” explains Martin. “It’s possible to get food poisoning from reheated rice, but reheating is not the problem – it’s the way the rice has been stored before reheating. “Uncooked rice can contain spores of Bacillus cereus that can survive when the rice is cooked. If the rice is left standing at room temperature, the spores will germinate, multiply and may produce toxins that cause either vomiting or diarrhoea. Reheating will not get rid of the toxin.” The guidelines say cooked rice should be cooled as quickly as possible after cooking – ideally within an hour – then kept in the fridge and used within one day.


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