Food for Thought: Fact or myth? Wash those greens or not?

By Nancy Schuster, Frontier Extension Agent

foodforthoughtThe month of September is known as National Food Safety Month. Food safety is really a year round topic. This year the Partnership for Food Safety Education used myths and facts to share food safety knowledge. Knowing the truth can help you keep your food safe.

Myth: It’s OK to wash bagged greens if I want to. There’s no harm. Fact: Although it might seem like an extra rinse might be a good thing, it is not. Bagged greens that say “ready to eat” or “washed” or even “triple washed” should not be washed again. Washing bagged greens at home actually increases the chances for cross-contamination. The ready to-eat greens have been prepared with your safety in mind, so enjoy!

Myth: It’s only important to rinse fresh fruits and vegetables for safety. I don’t need to dry them too. Fact: Using a clean paper towel to blot dry fruits and vegetables after rinsing is more important than you might imagine. Research has found this drying step further reduces the level of harmful bacteria on the surface of fresh produce.

Myth: Cross-contamination doesn’t happen in the refrigerator – it is too cold in there for germs to survive! Fact: Some bacteria can survive and grow in cool moist environments like the refrigerator.

In fact Listeria Monocytogenes grows at temperatures as low as 35.6 degrees F. A recent study done by National Safe Foods International revealed that the refrigerator produce compartment was one of the “germiest” places in the kitchen, containing Salmonella and Listeria. Clean your refrigerator regularly with hot water and soap. Clean up spills immediately.

Myth: Only kids eat raw cookie dough and cake batter! Fact: Just a lick can make you sick. No one of any age should eat raw cookie dough. Baking is necessary to cook the raw ingredients that will kill the germs that might be in the raw ingredients.

In 2009, Nestlé Toll House prepackaged cookie dough sickened 77 people in 30 states, and 35 of those people were admitted to the hospital, a few with severe illness. Nestlé recalled 3.6 million packages of its popular chocolate chip batter. Unlike the pasteurized eggs, molasses, sugar, baking soda and margarine in the cookie dough, flour was the only ingredient that did not undergo a kill step to eliminate pathogens, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s final report. In fact, some people who suffered E. coli infections in the 2009 outbreak said they didn’t plan to bake cookies; they bought the dough to eat it raw in spite of package warnings not to do so. One of the CDC staff members said manufacturers need to make a safe-to-eat raw cookie dough!

While visiting my daughter in Illinois recently, I found “edible raw cookie dough” in the dairy cooler. I put on my “family and consumer science” name tag and began to check this product out. How could this be? The edible raw cookie dough contains no egg product and is not for baking; it’s made just for eating! Since then I have found an edible cookie dough cookbook and recipes online so you can make your own no-egg cookie dough.

Remember, knowing the facts can help you and your family keep your food safe.

schustersmNancy Schuster is a Frontier Extension District family and consumer science agent whose responsibilities include providing information about food safety, nutrition, food science and food preparation. She is based in the Garnett office of the Frontier Extension District and can be reached at 785-448-6826 or email [email protected].

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