Fight Food Safety Myths!
cnty5028 at unlvm.unl.edu
Fri Jan 30 07:47:14 PST 1998
A major part of consumer food safety education is overcoming people's
current beliefs about food safety. Here's a somewhat light-hearted look at
common myths and reasons to stop believing them.
These are from the current issue of FoodTalk, a free e-mail newsletter from
the University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension in Lancaster County.
You're welcome to use any of this information in your own food safety
Hello from "FoodTalk" - Read It ... Do It: Food, Nutrition & Food Safety
TOPIC: DON'T MESS WITH FOOD SAFETY MYTHS!
See end of newsletter for information about subscribing, reproducing and
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True or false: The best way to decide if a food is safe to eat is to taste
That belief, and others like it, focus our thoughts on food safety.
Misconceptions about food safety abound and can make us sick! Check your
food safety savvy against the statements that follow.
Have you -- or people you know -- been misled by any of the following food
"If it tastes O.K., it's safe to eat."
If you trust your taste buds to detect unsafe food, you may be in trouble.
Many people think a food is safe to eat if it tastes, smells or looks all
right. The National Center for Health Statistics estimates that over 9,000
people in the U.S. die yearly from food-borne illness. An estimated 6.5
million to 33 million illnesses are linked to food-borne pathogens. You
can't always rely on your sense of taste, smell or sight to determine if a
food is safe.
Taking even a tiny bite to test the safety of a questionable food can be
dangerous. For some food-borne illnesses, such as botulism, eating just a
small amount of a contaminated food can be fatal.
"We've always handled our food this way and nothing has ever happened."
If you use past experiences to predict whether a food is safe, your future
may include a food-borne illness.
Many incidents of food-borne illness went undetected in the past.
Food-borne illness symptoms of nausea, vomiting, cramps and diarrhea were
often and still are blamed on the "flu."
Also, both the nature of our food supply and the virulence of food-borne
pathogens has changed.
In the past, the chicken served that night might have been walking around
the backyard that afternoon! Today, your food may travel halfway around the
world before it arrives at your table. Food often passes from producer to
processor to retailer before it reaches you. The opportunities for
mishandling are higher.
More potent forms of bacteria present further problems. For example, in
1990 the U.S. Public Health Service cited E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella,
Listeria monocytogenes and Campylobacter jejuni as the four most serious
food-borne pathogens in the United States. Twenty years ago, three of these
-- Campylobacter, Listeria and E. coli O157:H7 -- weren't even recognized as
sources of food-borne disease!
"I sampled it a couple of hours ago and never got sick -- so it should be
safe to eat."
Your timing may be way off if you believe this myth!
Though you may feel all right a few hours after eating a food, the food
still may be unsafe for you and others to consume. A food-borne illness may
develop within 1/2 hour to a few days; some may occur as long as two or more
weeks after eating a contaminated food. If sickness occurs 24 hours or more
after eating a food -- which is often the case -- it's frequently blamed on
Another consideration: While YOU might safely eat a food, someone with a
weaker immune system could be more susceptible to food borne illness. Young
children, older individuals and persons with an illness are more vulnerable
and would be more likely to get sick.
Finally, if you guess wrong about the safety of a food, you -- and those you
serve -- may feel more than a few hours of discomfort! Some food-borne
illnesses can last several weeks or longer and require hospitalization.
Some can be fatal.
OVERCOMING FOOD SAFETY MISCONCEPTIONS
Where can you obtain valid consumer food safety information? Here's a good
place to start . . .
A new consumer food safety campaign was launched this fall by the
Partnership for Food Safety Education to help educate the public about food
safety. This unique public-private partnership of industry, government and
consumer groups is urging Americans to "Fight BAC!"(tm) and reduce
food-borne illness. The campaign focuses on four critical messages:
CLEAN: Wash hands and surfaces often.
SEPARATE: Don't cross-contaminate.
COOK: Cook to proper temperatures.
CHILL: Refrigerate promptly.
For more information on materials and resources for consumer food safety
education, check the Fight BAC!(tm) Web site: www.fightbac.org
AND FOR THOSE WHO STILL BELIEVE IN FOOD SAFETY MYTHS
Many people won't change their minds about food safety misconceptions until
they -- or family members -- become sick. This is somewhat like saying
"I'll buy insurance AFTER my house burns down."
You only need an extra minute or two to wash hands, clean a cutting board,
cook a food to a recommended temperature and so on. This is a small price
to pay to help ensure that you, family members and friends avoid food-borne
REMEMBER "FOOD SAFETY" AS YOU PLAN 1998 EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS
The consumer is the final link in the food safety chain of producer to
processor to retailer to consumer. Safe consumer food handling is as
important as safe handling by the other partners in the flow of food from
"farm to table." If you'd like to offer a consumer food safety program, you
might be interested in our food safety game, "Don't Get Bugged by a Foodborne
Illness." If you'd like more information, e-mail me at
cnty5028 at unlvm.unl.edu or visit
my Web site:
=> FoodTalk is a FREE monthly e-mail newsletter for health professionals,
educators and consumers. It's published by University of Nebraska
Cooperative Extension in Lancaster County. Each issue provides a short,
"how-to" message on food, nutrition, or food safety.
=> FoodTalk is written by Alice Henneman, Extension Educator and
=> Feel free to forward FoodTalk. To receive FoodTalk, send this request:
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=> YOU MAY REPRODUCE FOODTALK - PLEASE CREDIT AS FOLLOWS:
FoodTalk E-mail Newsletter, University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension in
Lancaster County, http://ianrwww.unl.edu/ianr/lanco/family/foodtalk.htm
=> Past issues are found at:
You're welcome to link to FoodTalk from your Web site.
Your comments and suggestions about FoodTalk are welcome. Send to:
FOODTALK at UNLVM.UNL.EDU
Alice Henneman, MS, RD, LMNT, Extension Educator
University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension in Lancaster County
444 Cherrycreek Rd.; Lincoln, NE 68528-1507 USA
PHONE: 402/441-7180 FAX: 402/441-7148 E-MAIL: cnty5028 at unlvm.unl.edu
Web site: http://www.ianr.unl.edu/ianr/lanco/family/safety.htm
Food safety game: http://www.ianr.unl.edu/ianr/lanco/family/buggame.htm
COOPERATIVE EXTENSION - HELPING PEOPLE PUT KNOWLEDGE TO WORK
Cooperative Extension offices are located throughout the United States. For
answers to your food, nutrition, and food safety questions, contact your
nearest Cooperative Extension office.
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with the non-discrimination policies of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln
and the United States Department of Agriculture."
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