When it comes to food safety, many of us are fairly careless about thoroughly washing preparation surfaces or ensuring that ingredients are past their use-by date. Unfortunately, this kind of carelessness can lead to a serious case of food poisoning, so it is important that you take time getting to know the facts about safety. This is particularly true if you work in the catering industry and have a responsibility to keep your colleagues and customers safe from nasty pathogens.

To help you avoid some of the most common misconceptions surrounding food safety, we’ve busted a few unhelpful myths below. Some of them may surprise you.

Myth #1: Food poisoning is just a minor illness that will go away in a few days

The effects of food poisoning differ depending on the bacteria, mould, parasite or virus it is caused by, as well as the strength of the infected person’s immune system. Whilst some cases of food poisoning are indeed mild and will last only a day or two, more serious cases can last a week or more and in extreme cases can produce life-threatening symptoms that require hospitalisation. It is important to remind yourself of this when preparing meals for yourself and others to ensure vigilance surrounding cleanliness.

Myth #2: If food falls on the floor, it can be used if immediately picked up (5 second rule!)

If you drop food on the floor, it should be deemed inedible. Whilst it may not seem like a big deal to eat food that has touched the floor for only a matter of seconds, this is all the time needed for nasty germs to attach themselves to food.

Myth #3: You should wash poultry and meat

Rinsing meat and poultry can help to spread bacteria as infected water droplets can splash off onto surrounding surfaces, including cutlery and crockery. Whilst it is true that meat tends to contain bacteria, any disease-causing pathogens will easily be killed off thorough cooking. Just make sure that meat products are piping hot before serving, particularly chicken.

Myth #4: You can tell if food is unsafe by sniffing it

Sometimes, you can tell that food has gone bad by smelling it. We all know the tangy, sour smell of old milk, for example, and it is a good rule of thumb to avoid any foods that smell questionable, have changed texture, or have started to sprout mould. However, even if an ingredient looks and smells fine, it may not be safe. In this way, relying on your senses alone is not enough to avoid an unpleasant bout of food poisoning. You must follow food safety guidelines and adhere to use-by dates instead.

Myth #5: Eating raw cake mix is safe

Raw cake mixture tends to contain raw eggs, which may carry the pathogen salmonella. Whilst it may be tempting to lick the bowl clean, it should be avoided at all costs.

Myth #6: You don’t need to wash fruit or veg if you are going to peel it

It is very important to wash all fruits and vegetables, regardless of whether you are going to peel them or not. This is because the soil and water that covers fresh fruit and veg can sometimes contain parasites and bacteria, which can sit on the surface of the food even after peeling. Remember to rub all fruit and vegetables clean with fresh running water before using them.

Myth #7: Vegetarians don’t get food poisoning

Whilst a vegetarian’s chances of developing food poisoning may be lower than that of a meat-eater, they can still get ill from cross-contamination if their food is prepared in the vicinity of meat, as well as from pathogens contained in fruit, veg, eggs, and other ingredients.

Myth #8: Plastic cutting boards are safer than wooden models

Although it is true that bacteria can sink into the surface of wooden chopping boards, these bacteria cannot multiply in wood and should die off fairly quickly. Ultimately, as long as you clean your chopping boards thoroughly, it does not matter what they are made from. It is important, however, to use separate chopping boards to cut different food categories such as meat and vegetables to avoid cross-contamination.

Get an accredited food handling certificate (not a myth!)

If any of these myths surprised you, you are not alone. Many people continue to believe these misconceptions despite their potential to cause serious illness. To ensure that you never make one of these mistakes and do well by those for whom you prepare food, we recommend investing in one of our food handling and safety online courses. As well as helping you to maintain excellent food safety practices, obtaining a certificate will ensure that employees and clients trust your credentials for years to come.