You can thaw and refreeze meat: Five food safety myths busted 15



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This time of year, most fridges are stocked up with food and drinks to share with family and friends. Let’s not make ourselves and our guests sick by getting things wrong when preparing and serving food.

As the weather warms up, so does the environment for micro-organisms in foods, potentially allowing them to multiply faster to hazardous levels. So put the drinks on ice and keep the fridge for the food.

But what are some of those food safety myths we’ve long come to believe that aren’t actually true?

Myth 1: if you’ve defrosted frozen meat or chicken you can’t refreeze it

From a safety point of view, it is fine to refreeze defrosted meat or chicken or any frozen food as long as it was defrosted in a fridge running at 5°C or below. Some quality may be lost by defrosting then refreezing foods as the cells break down a little and the food can become slightly watery.

Another option is to cook the defrosted food and then divide into small portions and refreeze once it has stopped steaming. Steam in a closed container leads to condensation, which can result in pools of water forming. This, combined with the nutrients in the food, creates the perfect environment for microbial growth. So it’s always best to wait about 30 minutes before refrigerating or freezing hot food.

Plan ahead so food can be defrosted in the fridge, especially with large items such as a frozen turkey or roll of meat. If left on the bench, the external surface could be at room temperature and micro-organisms could be growing rapidly while the centre of the piece is still frozen!

Myth 2: Wash meat before you prepare and/or cook it

It is not a good idea to wash meats and poultry when preparing for cooking. Splashing water that might contain potentially hazardous bacteria around the kitchen can create more of a hazard if those bacteria are splashed onto ready-to-eat foods or food preparation surfaces.

It is, however, a good idea to wash fruits and vegetables before preparing and serving, especially if they’re grown near or in the ground as they may carry some dirt and therefore micro-organisms.

This applies particularly to foods that will be prepared and eaten without further cooking. Consuming foods raw that traditionally have been eaten cooked or otherwise processed to kill pathogenic micro-organisms (potentially deadly to humans) might increase the risk of food poisoning.

Fruit, salad, vegetables and other ready-to-eat foods should be prepared separately, away from raw meat, chicken, seafood and other foods that need cooking.

Myth 3: Hot food should be left out to cool completely before putting it in the fridge

It’s not OK to leave perishable food out for an extended time or overnight before putting it in the fridge.

Micro-organisms can grow rapidly in food at temperatures between 5° and 60°C. Temperature control is the simplest and most effective way of controlling the growth of bacteria. Perishable food should spend as little time as possible in the 5-60°C danger zone. If food is left in the danger zone, be aware it is potentially unsafe to eat.

Hot leftovers, and any other leftovers for that matter, should go into the fridge once they have stopped steaming to reduce condensation, within about 30 minutes.

Large portions of hot food will cool faster if broken down into smaller amounts in shallow containers. It is possible that hot food such as stews or soup left in a bulky container, say a two-litre mixing bowl (versus a shallow tray), in the fridge can take nearly 24 hours to cool to the safe zone of less than 5°C.

Myth 4: If it smells OK, then it’s OK to eat

This is definitely not always true. Spoilage bacteria, yeasts and moulds are the usual culprits for making food smell off or go slimy and these may not make you sick, although it is always advisable not to consume spoiled food.

Pathogenic bacteria can grow in food and not cause any obvious changes to the food, so the best option is to inhibit pathogen growth by refrigerating foods.

Myth 5: Oil preserves food so it can be left at room temperature

Adding oil to foods will not necessarily kill bugs lurking in your food. The opposite is true for many products in oil if anaerobic micro-organisms, such as Clostridium botulinum (botulism), are present in the food. A lack of oxygen provides perfect conditions for their growth.

Outbreaks of botulism arising from consumption of vegetables in oil – including garlic, olives, mushrooms, beans and hot peppers – have mostly been attributed to the products not being properly prepared.

Vegetables in oil can be made safely. In 1991, Australian regulations stipulated that this class of product (vegetables in oil) can be safely made if the pH (a measure of acid) is less than 4.6. Foods with a pH below 4.6 do not in general support the growth of food-poisoning bacteria including botulism.

So keep food out of the danger zone to reduce your guests’ risk of getting food poisoning this summer. Check out other food safety tips and resources from CSIRO and the Food Safety Information Council, including testing your food safety knowledge.

We have to ask today… Do you thaw and refreeze meat or live by other meat handling rules?

The Conversation———————————————————————-

By Cathy Moir, Team leader, Microbial and chemical sciences, Food microbiologist and food safety specialist, CSIRO

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The Conversation

The Conversation is an independent source of news and views, sourced from the academic and research community and delivered direct to the public. Their team of professional editors work with university, CSIRO and research institute experts to unlock their knowledge for use by the wider public. We republish The Conversation's content under Creative Commons License.

  1. I generally do what seems to be right. I don’t refreeze thawed meats or fish because I don’t like the effect on the texture of the food. One of my big hates is the “Thawed for your convenience” food sold in supermarkets.

  2. I always use meat once it has defrosted. Either cook it same day or in the next couple of days. Never had a reason to refreeze meat. On the subject of meat and other foods going bad and how particular some people are when it comes to food handling I think common sense should prevail. My Grandpa always reckoned that if his dog wouldn’t eat something then it was no good. Actually I can remember he and my Dad hanging meat in the meat safe and sometimes flies would find their way in and “blow” the meat. Fly blown meat was common back then and not a real problem as it was possible to save the meat by simply cutting the eggs and/or already mobile maggots off the meat. Grandpa would say Don’t worry your Mum and Grandma won’t know about the maggots if they can’t see them. He was right and the meat never did us any harm.

  3. I definitely won’t be refreezing meat, you just have to look at all the things we are told is good for you then it comes out they got it wrong, meat is definitely one thing I won’t take any chances with.

  4. Have done Australian food handling coarse & follow ups have the certificates,I keep to the same rules at home..

  5. I guess I should be dead. Over the last 40 years, I figure I’ve been fairly conscious and practical about my food conditions. I have to say, I have put half thawed meat back in the freezer. Generally, it was cooked up, and then put back in the fridge. But ya know – I just do what I think at the time, and so far haven’t poisoned anyone. Common sense folks!

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  6. Oh remember the days when we did not have fridge and freezers ice chests with ice once a week and no idea about food temperature milk straight from cows still warm and still survived born tough in the old days

  7. DQ – After my pregnancy I gained a lot. but now I managed to lose 25 pounds with the diet that site here WWW 3BESTDIETS COM

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