USA Today Article

The Lansing State Journal picked up an interesting article about food safety from USA Today earlier this week. Is the columnist doing the public more harm than good by dispelling food safety ‘myths’? Let’s look at her messages and then propose improved messages she could have conveyed.

The following statements are how I perceived her messages:

Mayonnaise kills bacteria and it’s ok to leave mayonnaise-containing dishes in the baking sun during a picnic.

You can’t smell if food has gone bad, so if it smells like it is decomposing, you’re wrong.

Fresh-cut produce is safe; really it is because it’s been sanitized. Oh, and by the way, washing your produce is pointless.

Although the columnist doesn’t write anything incorrect, she doesn’t talk about safe practices and safe alternatives. Here are things she could have said:

Summer picnics are a great time to enjoy great food outdoors. Just remember to keep your foods out of the danger zone for microbial growth (41-140 degrees F). Put mayonnaise-containing dishes on ice and out of direct sunlight.

Use common sense in the kitchen. If something has an off-odor or appears to be past its prime, it’s better to toss it in the garbage than risk developing a food borne illness.

Ready-to-eat leafy green salad mixes are a popular product, but temperature abuse and inadequate reduction in bacterial loads during sanitizing washes make them a potential food safety hazard. Commercial sanitizers can reduce microbial levels by 99 to 99.9% at best in fresh cut produce, but this means Salmonella and E. coli 0157:H7 are still risk factors. Use caution when consuming ready-to-eat leafy green salad mixes.

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About Ryan Walker

Michigan State University graduate student in the Department of Food Science & Human Nutrition.
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