Social media has revolutionized how people connect over food, creating a new way to recommend restaurants, share recipes, or show off photos of a nice meal. But these open channels can also facilitate food safety misinformation and harmful advice, allowing misleading trends and food safety myths to spread far and wide. 

Food and beverage manufacturers play a direct role in consumer food safety education. Here are some of the biggest food safety myths still alive, and what companies can do to dispel them.  

1. Homemade mayo is as safe as store-bought. 

A prevalent food safety myth suggests making mayonnaise at home is as safe as store-bought versions. This misconception often overlooks how commercial mayonnaise is made with pasteurized eggs and made in strict, sterile manufacturing environments, significantly reducing the risk of foodborne illnesses like Salmonella. Homemade mayo frequently uses raw eggs, which can harbor harmful bacteria if not handled correctly. This TikTok video summarizes the dangers perfectly.  

Why It Matters to Manufacturers: This myth not only puts consumers at risk of potential foodborne pathogens but also diminishes the significance and advantages of commercially produced mayonnaise.  

Manufacturer Solution: To combat this misinformation, food manufacturers should create their own content, taking audiences inside their production facilities to explain why their mayo is so much safer than homemade versions. Consider addressing the role that preservative ingredients in commercially-made mayo play in food safety to address the concerns of consumers weary of complex ingredients.  

2. Washing poultry in the sink gets rid of harmful bacteria. 

Cooking poultry to the appropriate temperature is the only effective method to kill harmful pathogens. Counter to the promise of the myth, washing poultry in home kitchen sinks can actually increase the risk of spreading bacteria like Salmonella and Campylobacter. Rinsing poultry in this manner can actually splash bacteria onto surrounding surfaces, utensils, and other foods, leading to cross-contamination.  

Why It Matters to Manufacturers: If consumers acquire a foodborne illness from incorrectly washing products, it can tarnish the reputation of the poultry producer.  

Manufacturer Solution: The most direct way for manufacturers to counter this myth is on their packaging. Add large warnings to poultry packaging not to wash products in the sink, and reiterate the importance of proper cooking to kill bacteria. Consider including a QR code that links to USDA or other resources about the dangers of washing poultry. 

3. Soak fruits and vegetables in a wash before consuming. 

A common food safety myth is that soaking fruits and vegetables in a special wash or homemade solution is enough to remove harmful contaminants, but this isn’t entirely accurate. While rinsing fresh produce under running water can reduce some bacteria and residues, soaking solutions carry the risk of cross-contamination if the wash water becomes contaminated. The FDA recommends simply rinsing fruits and vegetables under running water and using a brush for firm produce. 

Why It Matters to Manufacturers: If consumers think they need a specialized fruit and vegetable wash or complex prepping process before eating, it may dissuade them from purchasing produce.  

Manufacturer Solution: Updating instructions on the product label is the best method to combat this food safety myth. Consider addressing the myth directly on the packaging and outlining proper washing instructions to follow instead. A QR code can link to the FDA’s safe food handling tips for additional info. 

4. Raw cookie dough is unsafe because of raw eggs. 

It makes sense that consumers believe raw cookie dough is unsafe to eat because it contains raw eggs, but this is only a partial truth in the broader context of food safety. It's true that raw eggs can harbor harmful pathogens like Salmonella, but uncooked flour can pose just as much danger. As a raw agricultural product, flour is susceptible to E. coli, salmonella, and other bacteria contamination.  

Why It Matters to Manufacturers: This myth undermines the benefits and importance of safely manufactured cookie dough products made for direct consumption.  

Manufacturer Solution: Similar to mayo, the safest practice is for consumers to purchase cookie dough products specifically designed for consumption. Manufacturers can meet this demand by expanding their product offerings (creating a great revenue opportunity), as well as updating labeling on their flour and raw eggs, reiterating the dangers of eating them raw in cookie dough.  

Mitigating the Risk of Food Safety Myths

For better or worse, social media will continue to wield significant influence on food safety in the coming years, with both truth and misinformation able to go viral at any moment. It’s a double-edged sword that can influence public perception and behavior around food handling and consumption, emphasizing the need for credible sources and informed dialogue.

In this ever-evolving landscape, organizations like AIB International play a vital role in helping manufacturers navigate challenges and mitigate risks. Sign up for our newsletter to stay informed about current trends, regulations, and best practices in food safety. 

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