Solving food safety myths at National Science Week 2014

There are "various points of risk" along the food chain from paddock to plate.
There are "various points of risk" along the food chain from paddock to plate.

The scientists of the NSW Food Authority have thrown on their lab coats in celebration of National Science Week 2014 (16 – 24 August), a time to focus the microscope on the important role that science plays in food safety and protecting people from food poisoning.

A feature of the Food Authority's Science Week activities this year is the chance to ask chief scientist Dr Lisa Szabo some curly questions about food safety in the inaugural "Ask Dr Lisa", a live online Q&A session to be held on Thursday 21 August between 1pm and 2pm.

Dr Szabo said there are plenty of myths around food safety and she is always keen to bust the food furphies that could put people's health at risk.

Five-second rule

"A common one is the notion of the five-second rule, that if you drop food on the floor but pick it up quickly enough your food should be fine," Dr Szabo said.

"I'm sorry to say that really is a myth.

"It's not just science that backs this one up, common sense tells you that if you drop food on the floor you increase the risk of it being contaminated with various nasties so if your food hits the floor you really do need to bin it."

This year NSW schools are looking at the theme Food for our future: Science feeding the world, an area the NSW Food Authority has an important role in.

"As a science based organisation, everything the NSW Food Authority does is based on sound evidence and research," Dr Szabo said.

Risk points

"Food begins in the paddock and ultimately ends up on our plate; along that food chain are various points of risk where science is used to identify issues and to strengthen the safety and integrity of that food chain with the ultimate aim of keeping people safe from food poisoning.

"In addition to the important role we play in improving food safety in NSW our team does some really fascinating work involving the quirkier side of food science, including reviewing investigations into what causes the phenomena of 'pine mouth' an experience that occurs for some people where all food tastes metallic after consuming pine nuts.

"This and other food risk studies undertaken by the Food Authority can be viewed on our website in the science section."

People can quiz Dr Szabo direct during the "Ask Dr Lisa" hour on Thursday 21 August between 1pm and 2pm by heading to the NSW Food Authority's Facebook page or to the NSW Food Authority website.