Food Safety

10 Food Safety Myths Debunked

Posted by
Trust20 Contributors • 13 minute read

Separating food safety myths from food safety facts is critical to running a successful, healthy kitchen. With an estimated 48 million people becoming ill from a foodborne illness each year, that’s a huge potential impact on business.1 You want to keep your kitchen in top shape so customers feel safe coming to dine with you regularly.

With that in mind, we’ve set out to bust the ten biggest food safety myths out there, so your staff is working with the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Why food safety is important 

The 10 biggest food safety myths

Keeping your kitchen in compliance 

Why food safety is important

Aside from negative impacts on your restaurant’s reputation, ignoring food safety can result in spreading foodborne illnesses in your community that can cause a range of different health problems. Customers who become ill can sue your establishment, costing you on top of the business you’ll lose from the incident.

A bad enough case of foodborne illness can even result in the authorities permanently closing your restaurant. But that’s easy to avoid through good food safety practices! 

The 10 biggest food safety myths 

Myths are pervasive because, on a surface level, they make sense. We might learn a food safety myth in a home kitchen growing up and never think to question it, until finding ourselves responsible for running a safe and compliant commercial kitchen.

With that in mind, we’re busting ten of the most common food safety myths below. Train your staff on them and try to make it fun (so it doesn’t feel as dry as overcooked chicken). 

1. Myth: It’s okay to eat something, as long as it looks and smells (or even tastes!) okay. 

Unfortunately, just because food looks and smells fine doesn’t mean that it is. Bacterial growth doesn’t always produce an odor or something that can be identified by the naked eye. It might even taste fine, but contaminated food can cause problems hours, days, or even weeks later.2

Which brings us to our second myth. 

2. Myth: Food poisoning symptoms appear immediately and are always mild and short-lived.

Symptoms of foodborne illnesses can appear anywhere from 30 minutes to six weeks after eating unsafe food. The chart below shows some examples from the FDA illustrating the range of symptoms from mild stomach upset to incredibly serious, life-threatening sickness.3


Common Illness Name

Onset After Ingesting



Food Sources

Bacillus cereus

B. cereus food poisoning

10-16 hrs

Abdominal cramps, watery diarrhea, nausea

24-48 hours

Meats, stews, gravies, vanilla sauce


Intestinal cryptosporidiosis

2-10 days

Diarrhea (usually watery), stomach cramps, upset stomach, slight fever

May be remitting and relapsing over weeks to months

Uncooked food or food contaminated by an ill food handler after cooking, contaminated drinking water

E. coli O157:H7

Hemorrhagic colitis or E. coli O157:H7 infection

1-8 days

Severe (often bloody) diarrhea, abdominal pain and vomiting. Can lead to kidney failure

5-10 days

Undercooked beef (especially hamburger), unpasteurized milk and juice, raw fruits and vegetables (e.g. sprouts), and contaminated water

Hepatitis A


28 days average (15-50 days)

Diarrhea, dark urine, jaundice, and flu-like symptoms, i.e., fever, headache, nausea, and abdominal pain

Variable, 2 weeks-3 months

Raw produce, contaminated drinking water, uncooked foods and cooked foods that are not reheated after contact with an infected food handler; shellfish from contaminated waters



6-48 hours

Diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, vomiting

4-7 days

Eggs, poultry, meat, unpasteurized milk or juice, cheese, contaminated raw fruits and vegetables

Food poisoning isn’t always just a day or two spent running to the bathroom, either. Serious, long-term effects of certain foodborne illnesses include kidney failure, chronic arthritis, and brain and nerve damage.‍4

3. Myth: It isn’t safe to refreeze food once you thaw it.

Refreezing food is more than just about safety, it turns out. Some foods can be refrozen, and it won’t damage their quality, while others will quickly deteriorate if they’re frozen more than once (e.g. berries.).

Why? The process of freezing food ruptures some of the cell walls in whatever it is that you’re freezing. If you do that multiple times, you break down the integrity of those cell walls more and more, leading to a significant loss of moisture and changes in texture and flavor. The temperature changes also make it possible for bacteria to grow (it always comes back to the temperature danger zone).

Raw proteins that were thawed at room temperature, casseroles, and ice cream are just a few examples of what not to refreeze.

While food waste is a real problem, risking foodborne illness isn’t worth trying to save a questionable refrozen dish, especially if you plan to serve it to customers. The best plan to avoid food waste and keep food as fresh as possible is to plan out defrosting certain ingredients at certain times.

If regular leftovers are an issue, look into food donation programs in your area. 

4. Myth: Freezing food kills all bacteria. 

Unfortunately, freezing food slows bacterial growth but doesn’t stop it completely. In order to keep food safe to eat, it needs to be thoroughly cooked to the required internal temperatures (see Myth 6 for more on this). 

5. Myth: It’s safe to thaw food on the counter.

Careful planning of what should be thawed at what time, unfortunately, doesn’t mean you can just pull what you need later out of the freezer and plop it on the counter. Food should NEVER be defrosted at room temperature because the risk of entering the temperature danger zone is extremely high.

Food can be safely defrosted in three ways:

  1. In the refrigerator,

  2. Under cold, running water,

  3. Or in the microwave.

Be sure that staff cook any food thawed under cold water or in the microwave immediately. 

If you’re not defrosting food but still need to cool it, there are other rules in place to avoid the temperature danger zone. Follow these two stages, laid out by the 2022 FDA Food Code:  

  • Stage 1: Cool food from 135°F to 70°F (57°C to 21°C) in two hours.

  • Stage 2: Cool food from 70°F to 41°F (21°C to 5°C) in four hours.5

Other Factors to Consider When Cooling Food

How quickly and evenly food cools depends on several factors–like the size and density of the food, along with the shape of its container.

Use these tips to safely cool food to 70°F in the first two hours: 

  • Separate larger dishes into smaller portions 

  • Place a food container in an ice water bath and stir the food regularly to help dissipate heat

Once the food is cooled and ready for refrigeration, loosely cover it so it can continue to cool in the refrigerator. 

6. Myth: You can tell food is cooked just by looking at it

How perfectly seared food looks, unfortunately, can’t tell you anything about how safe it is to eat; it’s the internal temperature that matters. In order to ensure that food is being cooked to the correct internal temperature in your kitchen, thermometers need to be regularly calibrated. They should also be inserted into the thickest part of the food for the most accurate reading.

The chart below lists some examples from the USDA.6


Minimum Internal Temperature
& Rest Time

Beef, Pork, Veal, and Lamb Steaks, chops, roasts

145 °F (62.8 °C)
allow to rest for at least 3 minutes

Ground Meats

160 °F (71.1 °C)

Ground Poultry

165 °F (73.9 °C)

Ham, fresh or smoked (uncooked)

145 °F (62.8 °C)
allow to rest for at least 3 minutes

Fully Cooked Ham (to reheat)

Reheat cooked hams packaged in USDA-inspected plants to 140 °F (60 °C) and all others to 165 °F (73.9 °C)

All Poultry (breasts, whole bird, legs, thighs, wings, ground poultry, giblets, and stuffing)

165 °F (73.9 °C)


160 °F (71.1 °C)

Fish & Shellfish

145 °F (62.8 °C)


165 °F (73.9 °C)


165 °F (73.9 °C)

7. Myth: Thermometers only need to be calibrated once.

Recommendations on how often to recalibrate thermometers vary, but food thermometers should be calibrated at least daily to ensure food-safe temperatures in all food going out of the kitchen.

With other thermometers around the kitchen, check them: 

  • Before their very first use

  • After being dropped (oops!) 

  • When moving from one temperature range to another

  • After a long time in storage (that candy thermometer that comes out for seasonal desserts) 

  • After a power outage (for appliance thermometers) 

8. Myth: Cross-contamination is only a problem with meat. 

Cross-contamination can happen with any food–including raw fruits and vegetables, herbs, and cheese–so be sure to train staff to use separate preparation areas and tools with different types of foods. The same approach should be used with common allergens to keep guests from having an allergic reaction on premises

Another common misconception related to this myth is that fruits and vegetables don’t need to be washed if they’re going to be peeled. The reality is that chemicals and bacteria can easily transfer from the peel, rind, or peeler itself onto the fruits and vegetables being prepared. It is important to wash all produce – no matter how it will be prepared (that means garnishes, too!).

9. Myth: Meat and poultry should be washed or rinsed prior to cooking

Raw meat should never be washed before being prepared–this can actually spread bacteria instead of eliminating it. The key to food safety with meat is the internal cooking temperature, so be sure kitchen thermometers are regularly calibrated and that you’re testing each cut at the thickest part to ensure it has been thoroughly cooked. 

10. Myth: Staff only need to wash their hands when they arrive or after using the bathroom. 

We’ve all seen the signs in the bathroom of every place we’ve ever eaten, but there’s more to food safety than clean hands following a bathroom visit. Hands should always be washed before, during, and after preparing food, but also: 

  • Before putting on gloves

  • After eating, drinking, or smoking 

  • After using the restroom

  • After handling raw meat or eggs 

  • After coughing or sneezing

  • After touching skin or hair

  • After touching used kitchen utensils

Train staff to be vigilant about hand washing. It’s better to be safe than sorry! 

Keeping your kitchen in compliance

While this covers the most burning questions, be sure to check out our Ultimate Guide to Food Safety for Foodservice Professionals to keep your kitchen fully compliant with food safety. All kitchen staff should understand the basics of food safety, the risks of not following regulations, preventative actions to take, and the different training that’s available. 

Consider offering the Trust20 Food Handler Certificate Training to your staff and the Food Manager Training to your managerial team so they feel confident and prepared to run a safe kitchen. 

Take your kitchen a step further than basic food safety compliance by taking a comprehensive approach to allergens and creating a food allergy-friendly dining experience (There’s a food allergy certificate training, too!).

Here’s to happy and safe dining for all! 

**Editor's Note: This blog was originally posted in October 2021 and was updated to reflect more myths and misconceptions about food safety.
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  1. CDC: Food Safety

  2. CDC: Food Poisoning Symptoms

  3. FDA: What You Need to Know About Foodborne Illnesses

  4. US Government: Food Poisoning

  5. FDA: 2022 Food Code

  6. USDA Safe Minimum Internal Temperature Chart