Four Food Safety Myths That You Probably Still Believe

You get told a lot of things throughout your life. Everybody has a few nuggets of 'facts' they would like to share with you. Many of them relates to how to prepare and store edible goods to avoid food poisoning. Australia's government agency for scientific research CSIRO is aware of this and has decided to use science to debunk five prevailing food safety myths.

Soup ingredients image from Shutterstock

#1 You Can't Refreeze Defrosted Meat

It's happened to the best of us. You leave meat out to defrost in the morning for dinner but forget about it and go out to eat with friends that night. That piece of meat then gets binned because you can't possibly refreeze it unless you want food poisoning for dessert. Right?

Actually, you can refreeze defrosted meat, but it depends on how you thawed it out.

"From a safety point of view, it is fine to refreeze defrosted meat or chicken or any frozen food as long as it was defrosted in a fridge running at 5°C or below," according to the CSIRO. "Some quality may be lost by defrosting then refreezing foods as the cells break down a little and the food can become slightly watery."

#2 You Have To Wash Meat Before You Prepare Or Cook It

I've been guilty of doing this up until a few years ago. It made sense to me to wash the piece of meat I was about to cook because who knows where it has been before it arrived in my kitchen? I wanted to give it a good clean with water. But the CSIRO has highlighted that this is not a good idea.

"Splashing water that might contain potentially hazardous bacteria around the kitchen can create more of a hazard if those bacteria are splashed onto ready-to-eat foods or food preparation surfaces," the research agency said in a blog post.

You should, however, continue to wash your fruits and vegetables because they might carry dirt that has micro-organisms.

#3 Hot Food Should Be Left To Cool Completely Before Being Put In The Fridge

This is one that I had believed; until now. Letting food cool first before refrigerating is something that was hammered into my head by my parents my whole life. Apparently I've been doing it wrong.

"Micro-organisms can grow rapidly in food at temperatures between 5° and 60°C. Temperature control is the simplest and most effective way of controlling the growth of bacteria," the CSIRO said. "Perishable food should spend as little time as possible in the 5-60°C danger zone. If food is left in the danger zone, be aware it is potentially unsafe to eat.

"Hot leftovers, and any other leftovers for that matter, should go into the fridge once they have stopped steaming to reduce condensation, within about 30 minutes."

#4 If It Doesn't Smell Rancid Then The Food Is Probably Fine To Eat

I know way too many people who play food poisoning roulette on a constant basis. What's that? The leftover spagbol from 2 weeks ago still looks and smells fine? Yeah, let's eat it. No, no, no. Please don't.

Some pathogenic bacteria can grow in food and won't cause it to smell or taste funny. Please use common sense here. Refrigerate perishable food as a soon as possible and don't eat anything that has been in the fridge for ages.

[Via CSIRO blog]


    Unfortunately I don't understand the number 3 myth? Like why did people believe it had to be cool before it went in the fridge? (The only thing I can think of is that it may not be good for the fridge to have to over compensate for the heat?) but that seems a bit odd? Is it thought that it had something to do with bacteria? Or was it thought that it stayed in the 5->60c zone longer? or?

      The idea is if you leave hot food in the fridge then it cools unevenly. The outer layer cools faster than the centre, which gives bacteria a chance to thrive. I've heard this reasoning from a lot of people.

        Oh right thanks for that! I've also heard people waiting for food to cool, but could never figure out the reason why, and didn't think to ask until now. I appreciate it.

        My only reasoning is that I don't want to test if my cold fridge shelves can handle something hot on them or not.

          This exactly. We have glass shelves in the fridge and I have always been nervous about putting something very hot on a cold glass shelf. If I have to do this I always put some dish towels underneath it to help insulate it from the heat.

            I was nervous with my fridges glass shelves buy have drunkenly put some pretty warm even hot things on then with out drama.

    Interesting, since BBC just ran a similar article (focussed on safety of eating leftovers) and definitely emphasised the importance of #3. Their key argument was that hot and warm food will raise the temperature within the fridge, thus putting all other food at risk as well.

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