First: Take our summertime food safety quiz, then check back here to see the explanations and how you fared.
1) True or false? To remove bacteria, it's safest to rinse chicken and meat before cooking.
False. Washing raw meat or poultry before cooking is not recommended. Doing so can actually increase your risk of food poisoning by dispersing bacteria to the countertop and other ready-to-eat foods. Bacteria that may be present on the surface of raw meat or poultry are destroyed only by cooking to proper temperatures.
2) Which protein food needs to get the hottest to kill bacteria?
c) turkey sausages
Answer: c). The temperature inside turkey sausage needs to reach 74 C (165 F) or more to kill bacteria. Steaks, roasts, pork chops, pork loin and ribs should reach an internal temperature of at least 63 C (145 F) and fish 70 C (158 F).
3) True or false? Your beef burger is safe to eat when it's brown inside.
False. Beef patties may be brown in the centre before reaching a safe temperature, or can stay pink even after reaching the right temperature. The issue: Ground beef may contain E. coli 0157:H7, a bacterium that causes severe food poisoning. To kill E. coli 0157:H7, cook beef burgers to a safe internal temperature of 71 C (160 F). Don't rely on colour; use a digital meat thermometer.
4) Which practices help to reduce the formation of harmful chemicals in grilled meat?
Answer: d) All of the above. Chemicals called heterocyclic amines and polycyclic amines (both shown to damage DNA) form in meat during high-heat cooking. Partially cooking large cuts of meat in the microwave before grilling, marinating with ingredients such as dark beer, wine, citrus, vinegar and herbs and flipping meat and burgers often all have been demonstrated to substantially reduce the formation of these chemicals.
5) True or false? You should not wash bagged greens that are labelled 'prewashed.'
True. Bagged greens that are prewashed before packaging do not need to be washed again. Rewashing bagged greens could introduce bacteria from your hands, cutting board or the sink. Plus, once bacteria that cause foodborne illness contaminate greens, it's difficult to remove them completely with water. If the bag isn't labelled "prewashed," wash greens thoroughly.
6) It's a hot summer day (29 C) and you're having a backyard barbecue. How long can you safely let foods sit out?
Answer: c) two hours. Don't let perishable foods sit out longer than two hours; in hotter weather (32 C) the rule is no longer than one hour. Foods left out longer may look and smell fine, but can be teeming with bacteria. (Bacteria grow fastest between and 5 C and 60 C, doubling in number every 20 minutes.) Keep buffet portions small and refill from backup dishes stored in the oven or fridge.
7) True or False? If you see mould on your hot dog bun you can cut it out and safely eat the rest.
False. If you see mould, throw out the whole package of buns or loaf of bread. There may be some mould growth you can't see. Moulds can easily penetrate below the surface in porous foods such as bread, muffins and other baked goods. While some moulds are harmless, others cause illness.
8) Which food is not linked to listeria contamination?
Answer: b) Baked brie. Wieners, cold cuts, smoked seafood and soft cheeses made from unpasteurized milk (e.g., feta, Camembert, brie, blue-veined cheeses) and uncooked sprouts may harbour Listeria monocytogenes, a bacterium that can grow at refrigerator temperatures. (Pregnant women, people with weakened immune systems and the elderly should avoid these foods.) Pasteurization and cooking to proper temperatures (for example, baking that wheel of brie) will kill the microbe.
9) True or false? It's safe to make smoothies with milk that's one week past the date on the carton.
True. "Best before" dates refer to the quality of a food product, not safety. They tell you how long a product will retain its optimum flavour, texture and nutritional value when stored properly. Milk is safe to drink five to seven days after the best before date has expired. Just make sure your fridge is set at 4 C or colder.
10) Which fruit does not need to be washed before eating?
Answer: d) None of the above. All produce – with the exception of prewashed greens – should be rinsed under cool running water to reduce our exposure to microbes that can make us ill and pesticide residues. Organic produce may still harbour pathogens and needs to be rinsed like any other fruit or vegetables. Cantaloupes are at greater risk of contamination because their coarse rind can trap bacteria; before cutting, wash and scrub the entire melon with warm water using a clean produce brush.
Eight to 10 correct: Congratulations, you deserve an A.
Five to seven correct: You passed, but there's room for improvement.
Less than five: Uh-oh. I'm not coming to your next barbecue.
Leslie Beck, a registered dietitian, is based at the Medisys clinic in Toronto.