The facts and myths regarding food poisoning often get intertwined to the point where it may be difficult to distinguish fact from fiction. Since an estimated 1 in 6 Americans will get ill from food poisoning every year, it is imperative to know how to separate the facts from the myths. Here are five facts and myths about food poisoning.
1. Myth: Food poisoning will not cause long-lasting effects.
Fact: While the majority of people who suffer the anguish of food poisoning will recover without any long-term health problems, there are many who will suffer from serious health issues as a direct result of the food poisoning. Eat Safe Louisiana explains that some foodbourne illnesses can lead to conditions such as chronic arthritis, kidney failure, nerve damage, brain damage and even death.
2. Myth: If the seating area of a restaurant is clean I will not have to worry about food poisoning.
Fact: Nothing could be further from the truth. Restaurant owners, managers and staff may take care to clean the tables, chairs and floors where customers are seated, but diners usually have no clue what the place looks like or what is going on behind the counter or the kitchen door. In 2013, Big Tim’s, a popular BBQ establishment in St. Petersburg Florida was shut down by health inspectors after repeated violations, which are suspected to be the source of a Salmonella outbreak after several patrons became ill after eating at Big Tim’s. As described by the Food Poisoning Bulletin, citing information obtained by 10News Tampa Bay, a look at health inspection records showed violations on six different occasions in less than three months. It was finally closed after “inspections revealed many problems with equipment, cleanliness, and rodent activity.” I personally observed a fast-food employee reaching into a container of gravy, stirring it with her ungloved fingers and licking the gravy off, then repeating the whole process again. I never ate there again!
3. Myth: Food poisoning means I got it from eating bacteria that was in my food.
Fact: Although your food may have made you sick, it is not actually the bacteria in the contaminated food that makes you sick; it is the toxins produced by the bacteria that makes you ill. As bacteria multiply, toxins are produced and that causes illness. The North Dakota Department of Health Division of Disease Control points out that “That’s why it’s very important to follow proper cooking, storage, refrigeration and reheating guidelines in order to prepare and serve safe food.”
4. Myth: The reason microwaved food should sit for a couple minutes after microwaving is so it can cool off and will not be too hot to eat.
Fact: Letting microwaved food sit for a few minutes after the cooking time is complete does not just let it cool off. It allows the food to continue cooking more completely for that “standing time,” according to the Food Poison Journal.
5. Myth: Once food is cooked, I do not have to worry about food poisoning because cooking kills all the bacteria.
Fact: The truth is, once food is cooked, the opportunity for bacteria to thrive actually increases, as explained at foodsafety.gov. This is because bacteria can thrive as the food cools. So instead of leaving that nice romantic dinner or holiday meal sitting on the stove or counter until you enjoy more of it later on, keep the food warmed continuously at the right temperature until you finish eating it or put it in the refrigerator.
There are many other myths about food poisoning. When you learn to separate the facts from the myths, you may be less likely to suffer from food poisoning and can be confident that you are doing your best to keep yourself and your loved ones free of foodbourne illnesses.