Monday, September 24, 2012

Myth: Food is safe to eat if I heat it in a microwave oven because the microwaves will kill the bacteria.

microwave oven
Answer: BUSTED!

It’s the heat that kills bacteria, not the microwaves. Microwave ovens are great time-savers, but make sure you take the time to adequately heat food to a safe internal temperature. That is what will kill the bacteria in foods.

Remember that foods can cook unevenly in microwave ovens. Microwaves cook food from the outside in toward the middle. Even if your microwave oven has a turntable, food can cook unevenly and leave cold spots where bacteria can survive.

Make sure to follow package instructions. If the instructions tell you to rotate and stir food during the cooking process or to let food stand for a period of time (to equalize the temperature), be sure to do it. Skipping these key cooking instructions may allow harmful bacteria to survive.

Check the temperature with a food thermometer in several spots to make sure food is heat thoroughly throughout. The same rules apply to leftovers — make sure to reheat them thoroughly to a safe internal temperature.

Visit to find more information on food safety and microwave ovens.

Contributor: Karen Sherbondy, MEd, RD, LD, Extension Associate, Nutrition and Exercise Physiology, University of Missouri Extension, 816-655-6227

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