COL Best cutting board? Old milk? Take the food-safety quiz

Q You can't get food poisoning if you thoroughly cook your food and eat it promptly. True or false?

A False. Some bacteria can produce dangerous toxins that aren't destroyed even by thorough cooking. In addition, cooked food can become contaminated if it comes in contact with an unwashed utensil, dish, countertop or hand that was used to prepare tainted uncooked food.

Q The first symptoms of food poisoning can occur:

a. immediately

b. within two to 48 hours after eating


c. from two days to a week after eating

d. any of the above

A d. Food poisoning is most likely to strike from two hours to two days after eating. Some toxins in fish work within minutes, while botulism could take up to a week.

Q Which of these groups has a greater risk of getting food poisoning than other others?

a. smokers

b. heavy antacid users

c. people who drink alcohol at least once a week

d. they all have an equally high risk


A b. Stomach acid helps destroy bacteria so people who regularly take antacids or drugs (i.e. Tagamet or Zantac) might be more likely than people who take them sporadically or not at all.

Q How many Salmonella bacteria does it take to give you food poisoning?

a. as few as half a dozen

b. at least 1,000

c. at least 1 million

A a. It doesn't take much. The ice cream that made 224,000 people sick in 41 states in 1994 contained only about six Salmonella bacteria in each serving.

Q To avoid food poisoning from E. coli O147:H7, cook ground beef until:

a. the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F


b. the juices run clear

c. no more pink color is evident

d. any of the above

A a. E. coli is destroyed at 160 degrees F -- the only way to be certain is to use a quick-reading thermometer. New research suggests that when the pink color disappears and the juices run clear, the meat might still not be hot enough to kill E. coli.

Q Which kind of cutting board is safest for cutting meat and poultry?

a. wood

b. plastic

c. either, as long as you keep it clean


A c. Bacteria cling to the surfaces of plastic boards, which can easily rub off onto food although plastic is easier to clean. With wooden boards, bacteria are absorbed down into the wood fiber and remain beneath the surface, away from food. However, wood is harder to keep clean. The best procedure: 1) keep a separate cutting board for meat and poultry, 2) keep your boards clean by putting them in the dishwasher frequently or scrub them regularly with a mild bleach solution and 3) throw away any board that has deep knife cuts.

Q More than 90 percent of seafood poisoning cases would be eliminated if people:

a. bought only government-inspected seafood

b. cooked their shellfish thoroughly

c. made sure their seafood was kept on ice until right before it was cooked

d. only ate fish they caught themselves

A b. raw shellfish accounts for more than 90 percent of seafood poisoning cases. The most common culprit is Norwalk virus, which comes from human sewage. It causes nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, but most individuals recover within a day or two.

Q Once the date stamped on a milk carton has been reached, the milk:


a. should not be sold

b. should not be used

c. has lost most of its nutritional value

d. all of the above

A a. Milk that has reached its expiration date is still safe and nutritious and probably won't go sour for another week or so.

Ann Walker is a personal trainer and kinesiologist and has a master's degree in exercise physiology. You can reach her at

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