The Five-Second Rule
Hopefully, you know that the five-second rule isn’t actually true. If you drop food on the floor, you don’t have five seconds to pick it up. If it hits the floor it’s been exposed to bacteria, so it’s best if you just throw it away. Not to mention all the dirt that sticks to it too.
And let's get real for a second here. Portions in America are big enough that you really don't need that last french fry. It's no big financial loss or loss to your tummy. We can understand how you might be upset if you dropped a whole hamburger on the ground, so maybe just try to be more careful when you eat.
Cross-Contamination the Fridge
Most people don’t know that you need to keep meat at the bottom of the fridge so that the meat juices don’t drip down of everything else. It is possible for things to get exposed to bacteria in germs in the fridge. That’s why it’s important to keep everything covered, separated properly, and throw away old food.
Most refrigerators have drawers on the bottom levels for storing fruits and vegetables, and these are the best places for storage of your produce, because they are safe from the bacteria of your other foods. Above the drawers would be the best place to store meat, and above that, you can store foods such as dairy products. But the best way of all, in addition to where you store your food, is to keep your food properly sealed.
Fruit & Veggie Bin is Clean
This is an easy mistake to make, especially if you’re in a home kitchen and don’t give your fridge a scrub very often. When you do clean your fridge it’s important to clean every part of it properly. The vegetable drawer often gets forgotten or only receives a quick wipe down, but it needs to be washed with soap and water like everything else.
Not cleaning your fruit and veggie bins is a great way to accumulate bacteria in them and probably even mold. If there's one thing that's a guarantee about the products you buy, it's that it is eventually going to go bad. Just because you take out the bad fruit and veggies, doesn't mean you aren't leaving traces of the bad stuff behind.
Rinsing Melons Isn’t Important
You know to wash off things like apples, lettuce, and berries before you cook with them. Did you know that you also need to wash melons and anything else you’re going to cut through? If your knife touches the unwashed surface on the outside and you touch the inside, it’s contaminated.
When you think logically about bacteria and how easily it travels, this shouldn't come as a surprise. Once you touch the rind of the melon with your knife, any bacteria left on the outside of that, is pushed inside the melon, which is the part you eat. So, while your melon would have been safe to eat before, it is less so after that.
Vegetarians Don’t Get Food Poisoning
It’s easy to think that you’ll only get food poisoning from improperly cooked meat, but you’d be wrong. Even things as simple as your salad could have been exposed to unwanted bacteria. That’s why it’s important to keep everything clean, separated, and properly stored. Vegetarians can get food poisoning like everyone else.
It's also important to remember that produce can often be infected with bacteria, particularly leafy greens and such where it can be difficult to just wash off all the bacteria. Be on the lookout for recalls on products like romaine lettuce which can be susceptible to bacterial contamination. The more you know, the safer you'll be.
Leftovers Last A Long Time
You might think food lasts longer in your fridge. It’s not sitting out, it’s in an air-tight container, and it’s being cooled so it must be safe, right? Wrong. Leftovers don’t magically last longer. You should follow the recommended keep times on every food in your fridge, including your leftovers.
While foods in your fridge will certainly last longer than just leaving them out, putting them in the fridge only slows down bacteria growth. Keeping foods properly contained in the fridge will prevent foods from drying out but won't necessarily make them last longer in terms of food safety. Food that is cooked won't last any longer either, so be sure to know the recommended expiration dates for cooked meats and such. Generally, three days is your best bet, but it ultimately depends on the food.
Frozen Food Is Safe
Throwing something in your freezer won’t make it last forever. It can still expire, get freezer burn, or even be exposed to nasty germs. Make sure you keep up with the expiration dates on everything in your freezer and don’t be afraid to throw away food you think has gone bad.
Freezing food doesn't stop bacteria nor kill them. The freezing process merely puts bacteria into hibernation. Once you thaw out the frozen food, bacteria is reactivated so that it may grow and multiply. On top of this, some bacteria can actually grow and multiple in the freezer as well. So again, nothing frozen is guaranteed safe. Be sure to look up recommended throwaway dates for food items.
Rinse Raw Chicken
Please don’t rinse off raw chicken in your sink. Raw chicken is infamous for spreading dangerous bacteria that makes people horribly sick. When you rinse it in your kitchen sink the bacteria gets on the actual sink, surrounding dishes or food, and spread in the air with the water’s mist.
There's only one sure-fire way to get rid of bacteria on chicken. And what's that? Cooking it of course! Chicken that is cooked properly and thoroughly should be safe to eat, provided it has not reached its expiration date. Chicken should be cooked to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit for it to be safe for human consumption. So get a meat thermometer.
Raw Cookie Dough Is Fine
Who doesn’t love a good spoonful of raw cookie dough? Those who have gotten food poisoning from it. Food items that contain cookie dough, like ice cream, have a food-safe version that doesn’t need to be cooked. The kind you make at home is a different story, and you could get salmonella if you eat it.
There are also variations of cookie dough that don't contain any egg, which is often believed to be the main culprit of salmonella poisoning, but we regret to inform you that it's not the only one when it comes to cookie dough. The other culprit is flour which can also be contaminated with salmonella. So, yeah, sorry - you can't eat raw cookie dough - and if you do - do it at your own risk. But at least you have the facts.
Rinsing Your Hands Is Fine
Hopefully, you’re aware that you can’t just rinse your hands off and continue cooking. Many people are under the impression that soap and hot water isn’t necessary for every hand-washing, but they’re dead wrong. Keep your kitchen safe and clean by properly washing your hands every time with soapy water.
One thing that should be cleared up, however, is that you don't need antibacterial soap. In fact, antibacterial soap can actually be bad for you. Remember, that there are good bacteria and bad bacteria, and antibacterial kills both. It also tends to dry out your skin more and can potentially cause antibiotic resistance.
Cooked Food Doesn’t Have Bacteria
You might not think about the dangers of cooked food, especially if you only worry about improperly cooked food. Your meal can be cooked through entirely, but if something was exposed to bacteria after the cooking process is over, it can be deadly. You also need to store cooked food correctly, otherwise, it can still make you sick.
Everything you eat is exposed to bacteria at all times. There's never a point when your food or the surface your food is touching does not have at least some bacteria. With that said, even food that is cooked leaves some bacteria behind. Cooking doesn't kill everything. Therefore, as food is left out and reduced to room temperature, bacteria have a chance to multiply again. So, if you aren't going to eat it right away, store it in the fridge.
Thawing Meat on the Counter Is Safe
Thawing out frozen meat can be a hassle, and it’s tempting to just put it in your sink or stick in on a plate on the counter. This can lead to uneven thawing, bacteria touching the meat, or even cross-contamination in your kitchen. You should thaw meat in a sealed container or plastic bag in the fridge to be safe.
Thawing out in the fridge will also ensure that your meat does not reach room temperature for too long, which can result in the quick accumulation of bacteria. Refrigeration slows the growth of bacteria. By planning your meals ahead of time, you'll have plenty of time to thaw out the meat you need.
Meat Thermometers are Unnecessary
Some chefs can tell when a steak is cooked just from touching it. Not everyone can be a chef, and even a chef needs help with figuring out if the meat is cooked sometimes. To avoid cutting open undercooked meat on your cutting board or even eating it, get a meat thermometer to be totally sure your food is done.
Chicken is especially important to cook thoroughly as there is no safe amount of raw chicken to eat. Much of the bacteria on a steak, however, is on the outside so eating it with some red inside is safer than eating undercooked chicken. However, it is recommended that you cook all food at the recommended temperature.
Marinating Food on the Counter is Safe
Just like with thawing meat on the counter, it’s not safe to marinate it on the counter either. You don’t want anything to get contaminated, so it’s best to keep your marinade in an airtight container on the fridge shelf. Marinating in the fridge also means you can marinate for longer.
And by marinating for longer, your meats can absorb more flavor. So, really it just makes more sense to marinate in the fridge beside the safety concerns. Sure, salt can help preserve meat from spoiling but unless you are slathering that meat in nothing but salt, it won't keep the meat from spoiling if it's at room temperature.
Rice Won’t Give You Food Poisoning
No food is totally safe from the dangers of food poisoning. Even your bowl of plain white rice could have been exposed to bacteria or cooked improperly. Make sure you’re not contaminating anything in your kitchen, or something as simple as rice could make you very sick. Cross-contamination is an issue no matter how hot your rice gets.
Raw meats, unwashed vegetables and other possible contaminants can make you sick. If you are making a dish with rice and want to ensure you don't sick from the other foods you add to it, cook it all together. Boiling the meat, along with the rice and the vegetables will ensure everything is cooked through and it will also result in a more flavorful dish.
Plastic Cutting Boards Are Safer
You might think that a plastic cutting board is better for raw meat than a wooden one. It actually doesn’t matter. As long as you’re cleaning the cutting board properly after you use it, a wooden one is just as good as plastic. Plastic cutting boards may be easier to clean because you can stick them in a dishwasher but that doesn't mean they are any cleaner.
Dishes that have been cleaned and left in the dishwasher can accumulate bacteria from the moisture inside. You would need to unload the wash as soon as possible and the problem with that is the dishes are too hot at the end of the cycle. So unless your washer has a superb drying cycle, your dishes may still be leaving some bacteria behind.
You Don’t Need to Wash Fruits if You Peel Them
Just like with washing your melons, you need to wash anything you’re going to peel. If your peeler touches the dirty skin on the outside, and then the clean inside, it’s at risk of contamination. Foods like potatoes, oranges, and carrots need to be cleaned before you peel, just as much as berries and apples do.
Basically, peeling anything that you haven't washed is just going to spread bacteria around all the parts you are actually going to eat. Cutting, peeling, juicing - you need to wash your fruit. Sure, you may have done things the same way a million times before and have been okay but eventually, you'll get your comeuppance.
Food Poisoning Is a Short Stomach Bug
Different types of food poisoning can give you different symptoms. However, getting sick from bad food isn’t always just a few days of throwing up and feeling bad; sometimes it’s much worse. You can become severely dehydrated, be in a lot of pain, or even may die from food poisoning.
Depending on the strain of bacteria, food poisoning can be deadly. Some bacterium that have been known to be deadly are Listeria, E.Coli, Salmonella, Staphylococcal, and Hepatitis A. All of these infections can cause long-lasting damage to your body, even if you do stop throwing up after a couple days or so.
Cake Batter Is Safe
Cake batter isn’t any safer than cookie dough. It usually contains eggs, which are raw until you bake the cake. Those raw eggs in the cake batter can make you terribly sick if you get a bad one. Do yourself a favor and just eat cake, not the uncooked batter.
Yes, we know, the cake batter is freakin' delicious but is it really worth it if you get sick? And the same goes for your kids too. They may put up a fight about not being able to eat from the mixing bowl but is their protest going to be any worse than having to care for sick children over the next few days - and probably take them to the doctor as well?
If It Smells & Looks Safe, Then It’s Safe
As tempting as it is, you can’t just sniff your leftovers to see if they’re safe to eat. If it looks safe and smells safe, it could still be old or contaminated. Do yourself a favor and throw away anything past its expiration date, even if it still seems fine.
Sure something may be fine to eat a few days or so after they expire, but you are still running a risk. If it isn't expensive to replace, there's little reason at all to take the risk. And something like meat that has expired can be downright dangerous. Ultimately, you are going to do what you do, but you do so at your own risk. The phrase "better safe than sorry" exists for a reason.