Four Myths About Food Safety Debunked

Sept. 24, 2013

LINCOLN, Neb. — Just because something tastes good doesn't mean it is safe to eat. Raw cookie dough is no exception.

The Partnership for Food Safety Education has released four food safety myths for National Food Safety Month. Topping the list is the myth that only children eat raw cookie dough or cake batter and that it is safe to do so.

No one should eat raw cookie dough or cake batter because it could contain bacteria that could cause illness. The dough and batter must be cooked thoroughly before consumption to kill bacteria. People who eat raw cookie dough and cake batter are at a higher risk of food poisoning than others.

"People who are making cookie dough at home from scratch might want to use pasteurized egg substitutes instead of eggs so that kids can eat it," said Julie Albrecht, food specialist in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources. 

The second myth is that when kids cook a "heat-and-eat" meal, they don't have to worry about food safety because the microwave kills all the bacteria.

Many times, microwaves cook food unevenly. Bacteria can survive in cold spots. The food must be heated to a safe internal temperature before it is edible. Follow instructions carefully to avoid food safety hazards.

Albrecht recommends putting a plate of marshmallows in the microwave and cooking it for thirty seconds. Some marshmallows will be more cooked than others, a good indication of where in the microwave the hot spots are.

The third myth is that kids can rinse their hands under running water to get rid of bacteria.

In order to effectively kill germs, soap must be used. Rub hands together to make a lather, then scrub them well, making sure to scrub the backs of hands, between fingers and under nails. One tip is to sing the "Happy Birthday" song twice to time yourself. Rinse hands completely under water and dry them using a towel, air dryer, or paper towel.

Albrecht cautions against the use of hand sanitizer as a replacement for hand washing. Hand sanitize is not as effective and is intended only for situations in which there is no access to soap and water, like camping, Albrecht said.

The fourth myth is that pre-packaged fruits and vegetables do not need to be washed before consumption.

The only pre-packaged foods that do not need to be washed before consumption are those that say "ready-to-eat," "washed," or "triple washed." All other foods should be washed under running tap water. Be sure to wash your hands first. Firm items such as melons and cucumbers should be scrubbed with a produce brush. Dry with a clean cloth towel or paper towel to further reduce germ presence.

Julie Albrecht, Ph.D.
Nutrition and Health Sciences

Heather Haskins
Student Writer

Sandi Alswager Karstens
IANR News Service