Exposing popular food safety myths: part 2

County Agent’s Corner



Picking up where we left off three weeks ago, here is a look at some food safety myths that we should all remember.

1. Leftovers are safe to eat until they smell. Smell is NOT an indication of whether food is safe to eat. The types of bacteria that cause food-borne illnesses do not affect the taste, smell, or appearance of food. People should either freeze or discard refrigerated leftovers within three to four days, even if they smell and look fine.

2. Melons don’t need to be cleaned. Because people only eat the inside of the melon, many think that the outside doesn’t need to be cleaned. Even though people don’t ingest the rind, there are many ways for pathogens to contaminate the edible portion. “A knife or peeler passing through the rind can carry pathogens from the outside into the flesh of the melon,” said Alice Moore, Alabama Extension food safety and quality regional agent. “Before cutting, rinse the melon under running tap water while rubbing by hand or scrubbing with a clean brush.”

3. Food poisoning is not an issue when eating a vegetarian diet. Even when eating a vegetarian diet, people can get food poisoning. Fruits and vegetables may carry a risk of food-borne illness just like any other food. Always rinse produce under running tap water. This includes the fruits and vegetables with skins and rinds that people do not eat. Never use detergent or bleach to wash fresh produce.

4. Freezing food kills illness causing bacteria. Despite popular belief, bacteria can survive freezing temperatures. Freezing is not a method of killing bacteria. When frozen food is thawed, bacteria can still be present and may begin to multiply. The best way to kill harmful bacteria is by cooking the food to the proper internal temperature.

5. Hamburgers are cooked when the middle is brown. People cannot rely on visual cues to determine whether food has been cooked to a safe internal temperature. The ONLY way to know that food has been cooked is by using a food thermometer. Ground meat should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 160°F.

6. Microwaving food makes it automatically safe to eat. The heat from microwave ovens will kill the bacteria in foods when heated to a safe internal temperature. However, do not assume that the food is automatically safe to eat. Moore explained, “Foods can cook unevenly in microwave ovens because they may be shaped irregularly or vary in thickness. Even microwave ovens that have a turntable can cook food unevenly. This may leave cold spots in the food where harmful bacteria can survive.” Follow all package instructions, rotating and stirring foods during the cooking process, if the instructions call for it. Also, check the temperature of microwaved foods with a food thermometer in several spots.

For more information on proper food safety techniques and procedures, visit the Food Safety section of the Alabama Extension website at www.aces.edu/go/foodsafety. The food safety and quality regional agent serving each county is also available by phone or email. Find contact information for each agent in the Alabama Extension personnel directory.

Upcoming Extension programs:

• Tuesday, Feb. 23 – Blount County Natural Resource Committee presents “Wild Turkey Management” at this year’s landowner event. Free, in person or virtual, event to be held at Oneonta First Baptist Church from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Dinner will be served. You must RSVP with the Extension Office prior to Friday, Feb. 19.

• Blount County youth ages 9 to 18 who would like to take part in this year’s 4-H Chick Chain should contact the Extension Office by Friday, Feb. 19, to register.

• Blount County youth ages 9 to 14 interested in attending 4-H overnight summer camp should contact the Extension Office for more details.

• Thursday, Feb. 25, beginning at 9 a.m., at the Frank Green Building, there will be a training held for any grower that would like to be trained and certified in order to take Senior Farmers Market Vouchers as a form of payment, as well as a 2021 Blount County Farmers Market planning meeting following at noon.

• At Home Beekeeping Series (virtual) begins Tuesday, Feb. 26, from 6:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. Registration link: auburn.zoom.us/j/904522838.

• Wednesday, March 10, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., and Wednesday, March 24, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., at the Frank Green Building, anyone over the age of 60 needing help signing up for the Senior Farmers Market Voucher Program can come by for registration assistance.

To register for programs or for more information, call the extension office at 205-274-2129. To keep up with our many upcoming virtual program, please like our Facebook page “Blount County-Alabama Extension.”