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.

Mildred Cody, PhD, RD, LD, Nutrition Division head and associate professor, Georgia State University; governing board member, Partnership for Food
Safety Education; author, American Dietetic Association food safety books.
Britt Burton-Freeman, PhD, MS, director of nutrition, National Center for Food Safety and Technology, Illinois Institute of Technology.
Marcia Greenblum, MS, RD, director of nutrition and food safety education, Egg Nutrition Center. International Food Information Council Foundation web site: "2008 Food & Health Survey: Consumer Attitudes toward Food, Nutrition & Health."

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Last Editorial Review: 9/12/2008