9 Food Poisoning Myths

Do you know the truth about food safety?

By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD/LD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Do you know what it takes to keep you and your family from getting food poisoning? Some 82% of Americans say they're confident they prepare food safely. Yet many do not adhere to simple guidelines for safe food handling, according to a 2008 survey by the International Food Information Council Foundation.

From salmonella to E. coli to listeria, food poisoning is on consumers' minds after a series of high-profile outbreaks across the country. But how much do we really know about keeping food safe? WebMD consulted food safety experts to dispel common myths and offer advice on avoiding food poisoning.

Food Poisoning Myths

MYTH: Mayonnaise is often the cause of food-borne illness.

REALITY: Mayonnaise does not cause food poisoning, bacteria do. And bacteria grow best on foods that contain protein and are at temperatures between 40-140 degrees F. Commercially prepared mayonnaise is safe to use. At greater risk for developing bacteria are the foods mayonnaise is commonly mixed with for picnics and potlucks, such as pasta, potatoes, eggs, chicken, or tuna. But even these will be safe if you keep your cooler below 40 degrees F.

"Small, cut-up surfaces allow the bacteria to grow in the right environment," says Mildred Cody, PhD, RD, head of the nutrition division at Georgia State University. "Try taking whole foods like cherry tomatoes that are easy to eat and leave the mixed salads at home unless you can store them properly."