8 Kitchen Myths, Debunked
Certain routine kitchen practices are unsafe.
READ: 24 Smart Organizing Tips For Your Kitchen
Try these easy and quick tips from the experts to see how safe your kitchen really is.
Myth: Freezing Plastic Bottles Releases Dioxins
Somewhere along the way, people decided that it was a bad idea to freeze plastic bottles. Their reasoning? It releases dangerous toxins. Rolf Halden, Ph.D., who is an assistant professor of environmental health sciences at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, puts this myth to rest by asserting, "We don't believe there are dioxins in food-grade plastics. And even if there were, freezing wouldn't release them-heating would."
Although it is still not recommended to freeze plastic bottles, it's for an entirely different reason. Disposable bottles are much more prone to exploding once frozen, and they can be very hard to clean. Your best bet is to use your water bottle and recycle it when you're finished.
READ: 10 Surprising Foods You Should Freeze
Myth: Microwaving Plastic Can Be Toxic
It's true that certain plastic containers give off plasticizers, additives used to make them flexible, when put in a microwave. Some of these plasticizers, for example phthalates, have led to reproductive problems in lab animals and have even been banned from being used in children's toys in Europe. Even so, the direct link of this kind of harmful effect on humans is unknown. Dr. Anuradha Prakasha, Ph.D., who is an associate professor of food science at Chapman University and highly educated on microwaves through the Institute of Food Technologists, says there is a gray line, "The effect on humans isn't clear."
There are also other types of plastic containers that you can use to microwave your food that does not pose any health risk. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has labeled certain containers as microwave safe after putting them through strict tests and guidelines. One thing you should definitely skip is cellophane wrap to quickly reheat food and prevent splatters, unless you want to risk eating the toxins as part of your meal. What you should do is use a microwave safe plastic cover or a paper towel to cover the dish.
What we're saying? Only microwave your food in plastic containers labeled microwave safe or else it's not worth the risk.
Myth: Meat and Wooden Cutting Boards Don't Mix
Although people believe that a wooden cutting board can't be used when slicing meat, this is wrong. In fact, both wooden and plastic cutting boards are perfectly safe when it comes to meat. The one thing that is important is cleanliness. Carl Winter, Ph.D., who is a food toxicologist and the director of the FoodSafe program at the University of California at Davis says, "The key is to clean the board properly after each use."
To effectively wash any cutting board, use hot running water and soap. When you're done, dry it off with a paper towel to prevent bacteria growth.
Myth: Wash Meat, Not Vegetables
It's hard to know where this myth came from, especially since health experts actually advise the opposite. They recommend that people wash their vegetables, while the meat is optional. Shelley Feist, an executive director of the nonprofit Partnership for Food Safety Education, says "Because meat, poultry, and fish typically go through the "kill stage" of cooking, rinsing them first is unnecessary." Actually, it can even be unsafe to wash meat and poultry before cooking it. This is because once you've actually washed the chicken; the juices are splattered all over the kitchen increasing the risk of diseases like salmonella.
Food products that are not cooked, such as fruits and vegetables, should always be washed. The only exception to this rule is fruits that are labeled "prewashed" or "triple-washed". Feist elaborates on this by stating, "You can't completely rinse off E. coli, but many pathogens, especially salmonella, can be reduced by rinsing under running water." It is important to keep in mind that simply soaking your fruits and vegetables won't do the trick; they need to be completely rinsed. For foods that have a rough surface be sure to use a vegetable brush and make sure you always wash the rinds and skins even if you don't eat them because they too spread pathogens.
(Ngoc Minh Ngo)
Myth: Ceramic Dishes Release Traces of Lead
For some time now, there have been rumors going around that ceramic dishes give off lead. Too much lead exposure is a problem because it can lead to improper brain development in young children and can cause equally as serious medical issues in adults. Carl Winter, Ph.D., debunks this dangerous myth by saying, "Ceramics aren't dangerous if they've been glazed appropriately to seal in lead." The FDA has tightened its guidelines to make sure lead does not become an issue. In fact, since 1989 they have developed strict limitations on the amount of lead that each ceramic product can leach through frequent use. The majority of manufacturers in America have followed the FDA's guidelines, but that does not mean all small companies follow suit. The same goes for international companies, whose standards don't seem as protective. Remember that if a dish is not fired properly, acidic beverages can give off lead. To avoid this safety hazard, make sure your ceramic dishes are safe by checking with the manufacturer or using a store bought lead-testing kit.
Keep in mind that if you have any doubts, it's probably better to use your ceramic pieces for decoration instead.
Myth: A Sparkling Kitchen Is Clean and Healthy
If you think constantly cleaning your kitchen will keep you healthy, think again. The more sponges or dish towels you use to clean means you are more likely to be distributing germs instead of removing them. Susan Moorses, a registered dietitian in St. Paul and a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association highlights this point by saying, "Sponges and towels can spread bacteria. Paper towels are the safest." It is important to use disposable paper towels soaked in scalding hot water when wiping down foods such as cake batter, meat juices, or other products that contain dangerous bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella. When you're done, dry the area off with a fresh paper towel.
You need to remember that while a sponge may make the kitchen look clean, that doesn't mean that it is actually clean. Save the sponge for washing dishes and stick to paper towels when it comes to cleaning up messes.
Myth: Teflon-Coated Pans Are Dangerous
You know it's serious when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is involved. In 1999, the EPA began looking into the health risks associated with perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which is a chemical that has been linked to cancer found in lab animals. Shockingly, it has also been found in the general population's blood as well as in the environment. A main reason people are concerned with PFOA showing up in the kitchen is because it's used to make fluoropolymers, which gives nonstick pots and pans slippery qualities. While PFOA is used to make the coating of Teflon pans, they are still okay to use. With all of this being said, the EPA does NOT advise people to throw away these pans because PFOA is only present in the small amounts in the coating of the pots and pans.
Make sure you do not leave Teflon pans empty on a stove's high setting because Scientists with the Environmental Working Group, a research organization, have found that is where toxic fumes are present. While the maker of Teflon pots and pans, DuPont, asserts that normal cooking temperatures won't reach the level it takes for toxic fumes to be released, he does advise people to use these nonstick cook wear products to be used on a low or medium heat and to never be empty. If you are still worried, you can try switching to a nonstick option such as seasoned cast iron or anodized aluminum.
Bottom line, as long as you use Teflon plans on low or medium heats and replace them when it's time, you are good to go.
(Wendell T. Webber)
Myth: You Can Cook With Hot or Cold Tap Water
Remember when your mother told you always cook with cold water? Well, she had a good reason for that. Michael Shannon, MS., who is a professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School says that using hot water can cause to lead seeping into your food: "There's a possibility that lead is somewhere along the plumbing circuit in any home." The EPA says that houses built before 1986 need to be extremely cautious because they are most likely to have lead pipes, fixtures, fittings and solder. Others should still be aware because even plumbing that is considered legally lead-free can contain up to 8 percent lead. Although it's been decades since copper pipes have replaced lead ones, fusing pipes that contained lead were legal until 1991.
No matter what you need to remember to use cold water when cooking, Shannon asserts. If you are concerned, you may even want to have your water tested you a certified laboratory. To do this, you can call your local water authority or you can purchase home test kits.
Unless you want to be exposed to lead, cold water is the way to go.