Is it the mayonnaise? Food safety myths and summertime food

- When folks get sick following a picnic, they often wonder what was the cause of their upset stomach. Was it the potato salad? How about the macaroni salad

The Institute for Food Technologists (IFT) recently comprised a list, dispelling some common myths about foodborne illness and how to overall be cleaner in the kitchen. 

Related: Health Department: 18 hospitalized after 'exposure to feces' at neighborhood cookout

TASTE: The taste of food will tell you if it's bad 

  • Myth: Not true! Foods that are contaminated with lysteria, E. coli, salmonella, etc., can all taste great.

SAFE TO LEAVE OUT: Once a food is cooked, it's safe to leave out for hours 

  • Myth: If you've cooked something and have leftovers, you've got two hours to get those leftovers in the refrigerator and get them cold in order to prevent the spread of bacteria. Thin-walled metal, glass or plastic containers that are shallow (no more than 2 inches deep) are ideal for storage. Bags, foil and plastic wrap also work well, especially if you have a piece of food that is large or oddly shaped. 

LOOK WITH YOUR EYES: You can tell by your eyes if something is adequately cooked 

  • Myth: Not so. You need to use a food thermometer. Recent research from Kansas State showed that a quarter of the burgers turned brown before they reached the recommended 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

FOODBORNE ILLNESS CAN HAPPEN FAST: Foodborne illness can happen within a few hours 

  • Fact: The most common ones, such as staphylococcus or clostridium happen within a few minutes to a few hours, and you can feel really awful, but last for only about a day or so. However if you have one of the more serious ones such as salmonella or certain strains of E. coli, it takes longer for illness to appear. Sometimes several days can go by. Illness from listeria can take two months before symptoms appear, and you get really sick. Fortunately, most foodborne illnesses are not fatal.

PREVENTION IS EASY: Preventing foodborne illness is easy 

  • Fact: The most common way to avoid foodborne illness is by washing your hands. In a study where people were videotaped in their own kitchen, only half of them washed their hands before starting to prepare food. 

Keep your kitchen clean by washing the cooking area, the preparation area, knives, cutting boards, and utensils to avoid spreading bacteria throughout the kitchen. In addition, the refrigerator should be cleaned because bacteria can grow, slowly, in many environments. 

For more information, please visit The Institute for Food Technologists' (IFT) website.

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