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Busting Food Myths: August 16, 2012

Each year, one in six Americans will get sick from something they ate. The result can range stomach distress to hospitalizations, even death. Keeping your food safe is no accident but we may be focusing on the wrong things.

Eat, drink and be merry. Sounds good until food borne pathogens ruin the party. Getting the lowdown on food safety begins with busting cookout food myths. Number one: unrefrigerated mayonnaise makes you sick.

“A lot of products like mayonnaise and salad dressings are fairly acidic and it’s very difficult for food borne pathogens to grow in products that have a pH less than 4.6,” says Larry Altier, Director of Food and Nutrition Services for Lee Memorial Health System

To be safe, treat your mayo like any perishable food, refrigerate after two hours or one hour if the temperature is over 90-degrees.

Myth two: you can tell when your grilled food is done by the way it looks.

“It is very difficult to just look at a product and presume that it is cooked to the right temperature. We really recommend that folks use a temperature thermometer or an indicator. Put that little probe into the thickest part of the meat and it will tell you at the appropriate time when it’s done,” says Altier.

These two tidbits are both true:  First, food poisoning peaks in the summer because warm weather breeds bacteria much faster. And second, more people are at risk because they pack and go, taking their food away from the safety of home.

And myth number three begins at home: you should wash your meat and poultry before cooking. That’s false, too. When you wash, bacteria and juices splash and make a bigger problem. So making sure meats are fresh is good enough.

“Hamburger, muscle meats like steaks or poultry - you don’t put them in an area that you contaminate them by the surface content of the food around you or cross contaminate them,” says Altier.

So while it’s great to unwind and enjoy an outdoor barbeque or picnic, just make sure you don’t relax your food safety.