Food safety myths exposed

There are many myths surrounding food safety. Whether it's an old wives' tale about how long food lasts in the fridge or Uncle Barry's dodgy BBQ habits, food safety is an often forgotten part of healthy eating. 


Each year food poisoning causes more than 30,000 hospitalisations in Australia(Source: Food Safety Information Council), so you can understand why we think it's pretty important. Diabetes Queensland Accredited Practising Dietitian Alison Bennett gives her top tips to keep food safe at home. 


  1. If in doubt, throw it out.
  2. Use a permanent marker to write the date on food packages you're going to store in the fridge or freezer.
  3. Pay attention to the label. If something says refrigerate after opening, do it.
  4. Check your fridge temperature regularly to make sure it's 5 degrees Celsius or below.
  5. Check each product for a "use by" or "best before" date. "Use by" means the food is not safe to eat after this date. "Best before" means the nutrition and quality of the product may have changed a little, but the food is still safe to consume.





Here's a few myths published by the Australian Food Safety Information Council.


Myth 1 - If you drop food on the floor it is ok to eat before 5 seconds.

Bacteria does not politely wait 5 seconds to contaminate food dropped on the floor. Your floor will be contaminated from dirty shoes, pets, and general day-to-day life. A preliminary UK study found fewer bacteria on carpets than smooth floor surfaces (but you don't want to end up eating bits of carpet fluff on your food either).


Myth 2 - Food is contaminated only if it smells or tastes 'off'

You can get food poisoning from food that smells and tastes great. Bacteria can grow quickly in food that has been left in the temperature danger zone between 5°C and 65°C with no change in the food's smell or appearance.


Myth 3 - Food poisoning is from the last meal you ate

When you get struck down with Bali Belly, it's common to think that the food poisoning is from the last meal you ate. But some forms of food poisoning can take days or even weeks to eventuate. This is what makes it very difficult sometimes for health professionals to find what causes food poisoning.


Myth 4 - If you are a vegetarian, your risk of food poisoning is low

Sorry vegetarians, but many food poisoning outbreaks have been caused by improper handling of fruit and vegetable food items such as frozen berries, semi dried tomatoes, orange juice, cooked rice, bean or alfalfa sprouts. Even an egg with feathers and chicken poo on the shell can cause food poisoning.


Myth 5 - Hamburgers can be served rare

Unfortunately no! Always cook minced meat products such as hamburgers and sausages until they are 75°C inside because bacteria on the outside of pieces of meat can be transferred throughout the meat when it is minced.  See more on meat safety.


Myth 6 - Pork must always be cooked all the way through

Like beef or lamb, you can safely serve whole pieces of pork rare in Australia as the type of parasites (e.g. Trichinella) that may be a concern in pig meat overseas are not present in Australia's commercial pig population. However, minced pork products or rolled and/or stuffed cuts such as roasts and schnitzels must be cooked to 75°C at the centre.


Interested to know more about food safety myths?  Take on the challenge by completing the quick Food Safety Myths Quiz by the Australian Food Safety Information Council.


For further information regarding food safety visit Food Standards Australia New Zealand website.