Mind and Body: Myths and facts of food safety

Published 9:51 am Thursday, September 13, 2018

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration acknowledges there are many myths surrounding children and food safety.

Clarification of just a few of these myths can dramatically reduce the occurrence of foodborne illness in children.

Here are some of the more common myths about food safety and the facts.

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MYTH 1: Only kids eat raw cookie dough and cake batter. If we just keep kids away from the raw products when adults are baking, there won’t be a problem.

FACT: Just a lick can make you sick.

No one of any age should eat raw cookie dough or cake batter because it could contain germs that cause illness.

Whether it’s pre-packaged or homemade, the heat from baking is required to kill germs that might be in the raw ingredients.

The finished, baked product is far safer — and tastes even better. So don’t do it.

Remember, kids who eat raw cookie dough and cake batter are at greater risk of getting food poisoning than most adults.

MYTH 2: When kids cook, it is usually “heat and eat” snacks and foods in the microwave. They don’t have to worry about food safety — the microwaves kill the germs.

FACT: Microwaves aren’t magic.

It’s the heat the microwaves generate that kills the germs. Food cooked in a microwave needs to be heated to a safe internal temperature.

Microwaves often heat food unevenly, leaving cold spots in food where germs can survive. Kids can use microwaves properly by carefully following package instructions. Even simple “heat and eat” snacks come with instructions that need to be followed to ensure a safe product.

Use a food thermometer if the instructions tell you to.

MYTH 3: When kids wash their hands, just putting their hands under running water is enough to get the germs off.

FACT: Rubbing hands with water and soap is the best way to go.

Water is just part of what you need for clean hands.

Washing hands properly is a great way to reduce the risk of food poisoning.

Here’s how: Wet your hands with clean, running water and apply soap. Rub them together to make a lather and scrub them well; be sure to scrub the backs of hands, between fingers and under nails. Continue rubbing for at least 20 seconds. Sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice to time yourself. Rinse hands well under running water. Dry your hands using a clean towel, paper towel or an air dryer.

MYTH 4: My kids only eat pre-packaged fruits and veggies for snacks because those snacks don’t need to be washed before they eat them.

FACT: Read your way to food safety,

Giving your kids healthy snacks is a big plus for them, but just because produce is wrapped doesn’t always mean it’s ready to eat as is.

Read the label of your product to make sure it says “ready-to-eat,” “washed” or “triple washed.” If it does, you’re good to go.

If it doesn’t, wash your hands and then rinse the fruits or vegetables under running tap water. Scrub firm items, such as melons and cucumbers, with a clean produce brush. Dry with a clean cloth towel or paper towel to further reduce germs that may be present.