Food Poisoning Myths (cont.)
MYTH: Food can be left at room or outdoor temperature for more than two hours.
REALITY: Because bacteria grow rapidly in the "danger zone" between 40 degrees F and 140 degrees F, food left at room temperature for more than two hours should be discarded. When the temperature outside is 90 degrees F or hotter, food should be discarded after just one hour.
MYTH: You can tell when food is spoiled because it looks or smells bad.
REALITY: Most of the time, you can tell if a food is spoiled -- but not always. Bacteria are invisible and you can't always tell if they are present. When in doubt, throw it out, food safety experts say.
MYTH: Misting at the grocery store adequately washes produce.
REALITY: Misting produce keeps it looking fresh, but don't mistake that for a proper cleaning. "Wash produce using cold streaming water (no soap or bleach) and where possible, use a soft scrub brush or in the case of greens, submerge it in a water bath to properly clean and reduce residuals and potential bacteria," says Burton-Freeman. Produce with a thick peel, like bananas, may not need to be washed unless you are cutting into them with a knife. "Bacteria on the peel can be transferred to the interior with a knife, so melons and other thick-skinned fruits should be thoroughly washed," she advises. Bags of prewashed produce are considered safe, but consumers are advised to carefully inspect the vegetables before eating.
Published August 27, 2008.
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