Eight summer food safety myths debunked

Summertime spent outside can be a dangerous place for food. But some summertime food fears are simply unfounded.

Diane Van, with the United Stated Department of Agriculture helped us bust some food safety myths.

Myth No. 1 – The most common

Mayonnaise-based salads left unrefrigerated can make you sick.

"Mayo is not the problem," Van said. "They are acidified and pasteurized. It's the food you put them on that support bacterial growth."

So treat mayonnaise salads like any food. Refrigerate after two hours, one hour if it's hot weather. Want more time? Put your picnic foods on ice.

Myth No. 2

You should never cook directly on public grills

"Well that's not true," Van aid. "As long as you clean before you use it there's no reason why you can't use a public grill or your home grill if it's dirty. The best way is to heat the charcoal or the gas up and make sure it gets to about 500 degrees and that will burn any dirt or soil off the grill and then you take and then you can take a brush or some foil and you can just clean your grill."

Myth No. 3

You should wash meat and poultry before cooking.

False. In fact, bacteria in raw meat and poultry juices can splash and spread to other foods, utensils and surfaces if you rinse before cooking.

Myth No. 4

Grilled foods increase your risk for cancer.

"Grilled foods are safe in moderation," Van said, "and certainly you want to avoid charring on any of the meat according to the national cancer institute."

You can prevent charring by cutting the fat off your raw meat and poultry before grilling.

Use indirect heat when grilling. And if the food does char, cut it off before eating.

Myth No. 5

You can tell when your food is cooked by looking at it.

"Not true," Van said. "One in four hamburgers may look brown and look done but it hasn't reached the safe minimum internal temperature. The only way to tell for sure is to use a food thermometer and make sure it reaches 160-degrees."

Myth No. 6

Plastic or glass cutting boards don't hold bacteria like wooden cutting boards.

"Not true whether they're plastic glass or wooden," Van said. "The important thing is to make sure you wash them in hot soapy water."

And occasionally you can clean them with a mild bleach solution.

But don't fall for the myth that the more bleach you use the more bacteria you kill.

You should only use one tablespoon of bleach to a gallon of water to wash countertops or cutting boards.

Myth No. 7

Freezing foods kills bacteria

Wrong. Bacteria can survive freezing temperatures. When food is thawed bacteria can still be present and even multiply.

Myth No. 8

You should never put hot food in the refrigerator.

"That's not true," Van said. "It's more dangerous to forget and leave it out longer than two hours. So put it in shallow containers and get it into the refrigerator as quickly as possible."

So forget the myths and keep food safety facts in mind this summer.