I got food poisoning while working on a cruise ship in the eastern Mediterranean. I spent the first night in the infirmary hooked up to an IV and then was quarantined to my cabin. I studied the causes of this disease when I owned and managed a bar and grill and had to pass strict tests to be certified. Social media is full of misinformation about food poisoning causes.
Myths and Facts About Food Poisoning
- Myth: Certain foods cause food poisoning.
Fact: No foods cause food poisoning. Bacteria causes food poisoning and almost any food can harbor them.
- Myth: Peeled fruits and vegetables don’t need to be washed.
Fact: The problem is that the peels are dirty and contain bacterias from the soil. When peeling the bacteria gets on the peeler’s hands and then it passes to the food. This is called cross contamination.
- Myth: Food poisoning is a minor illness that is just an inconvenience.
Fact: Food poisoning is a serious illness killing more than 3000 people a year in the US. It is highly contagious. I had to be quarantined so it would not spread around the ship.
- Myth: You can tell if meats are cooked enough just by looking.
Fact: The only way to check if meats are cooked enough is with a meat thermometer. If raw meats are cooked in a microwave they need to sit after cooking to distribute the temperature completely.
- Myth: You can tell if leftovers are bad by the smell.
Fact: Food poisoning bacteria have no smell. All leftovers in the refrigerator should be discarded in three to four days.
- Myth: Cooking kills all bacteria so there is no danger.
Fact: Cooking does not kill all of the bacteria. If the food returns to room temperature after cooking it even encourages bacteria to grow more. Either keep the food hot for further consumption or cool it down rapidly in the refrigerator.
- Myth: Defrosting meat at room temperature is safe if cooked right away.
Fact: Meat should always be defrosted in the refrigerator. The inside of the meat might be cold or frozen but the outside might be at room temperature which enables bacteria to grow rapidly. True for marinating also. Always in the refrigerator.
- Myth: The cutting board where uncooked meat is prepared is OK to use on fresh vegetables as long as it is cleaned.
Fact: Separate cutting boards should always be used for fresh meats, and for vegetables. It is impossible to disinfect a cutting board 100%.
Myth: The last thing you ate made you sick.
Fact: Food poisoning symptoms can appear a few hours after eating tainted food but usually it takes two to five days for symptoms to appear, and in some cases even months later.
For more information on food safety: