Nice weekend? Maybe a roast chicken, prepared with a quick wash in the sink, maybe exposing yourself and everyone around you to potentially fatal food poisoning?

Actually, for nearly half of us, there’s no maybe about it.

Apparerently, 44% of Brits wash chicken in tap water before cooking it.

While they think a good rinse will remove germs, they’re inadvertently spreading a possibly lethal bacteria called Campylobacter.

If you hadn’t heard of Campylobacter, let us fill you in: it’s the biggest cause of food poisoning in the UK, with 280,000 cases and 500 deaths every year, and in four out of five cases, contaminated chicken is to blame.

“Washing raw chicken can splash this harmful bacteria around your kitchen,” explains Bob Martin, head of Food Borne Diseases at the FSA. “We’ve issued a call for people to stop this practice.”

So thankfully, we now know this life-saving information. But what other myths need busting?

The ‘x-second’ rule

Everyone has a different take on this, but who’s really right? The two-second rulers? The five? The 10? Or, it turns out, none of us… “The real rule is don’t eat food that’s dropped on the floor, it just isn’t worth the risk,” says Martin. Oh…

You can always smell when food’s bad

Another popular saying peddled out whenever the office milk starts to look a little weary but no one can be bothered to buy any more. Popular, but wrong.

“Harmful bacteria like E. Coli and Salmonella do not give off any odour, so sniffing food will not tell you whether it is safe,” says Martin.

“Always follow the Use By date and ensure your fridge is at the right temperature, below 5C.”

A bit of mould won’t hurt…

An admirable idea, in this modern age, where, at last count, Brits collectively throw away £15.1 billion worth of food every year.

But sadly, good citizenship doesn’t spell good sense. “The FSA advises against consuming visibly mouldy foods,” Martin states. “Mould does not usually cause food poisoning, but some species can produce mycotoxins.

“Depending on the type and amount, mycotoxins could cause either short-term illness or contribute to various health conditions over a longer period of time.”

Mouldy bread

Sell By dates? Use By dates? Blatant marketing ploy…

True and false. “Best Before relate to quality, so food past it should not pose a safety risk. Sell By or Display Until dates are put there to help shop staff with stock rotation, so consumers can ignore these,” Martin says.

But… “Use By dates are the most important food date as these relate to food safety.  It’s not legal to sell food past its Use By date and you should never eat food where this date has expired.”

Unwashed fruit’s good for the immune system

Simple answer: no, it’s not. “We advise washing fruit before eating, as it’s not possible to ensure they have been picked, handled or stored hygienically. This will ensure the fruit is safe to eat,” says Martin.

Never, ever re-heat rice

The food safety rule most hammered home, is actually, oddly, not that bad.

“It should be fine to reheat cooked rice that’s been kept in the fridge, provided it’s been cooled and stored carefully,” explains Martin.

“It’s possible to get food poisoning from reheated rice, but reheating is not the problem – it’s the way the rice has been stored before reheating.

“Uncooked rice can contain spores of Bacillus cereus that can survive when the rice is cooked.  If the rice is left standing at room temperature, the spores will germinate, multiply and may produce toxins that cause either vomiting or diarrhoea. Reheating will not get rid of the toxin.”

The guidelines say cooked rice should be cooled as quickly as possible after cooking – ideally within an hour – then kept in the fridge and used within one day.

Do you agree with this advice? Share your food safety facts in the Comments box below.