America's Grossest Food Habits, Revealed

People do some pretty shocking things in the kitchen, our poll shows. Here's what's risky—and what's just icky.

54% of you serve food dropped on the floor
Yet more risky kitchen business. In another study from Dawson, fallen food picked up salmonella from the floor almost immediately (so much for that five-second rule). And while more bacteria stuck to moist foods like fruit and meat than dry ones like nuts, no food escaped unscathed.

"I wouldn't eat anything off my kitchen floor," Dawson says. "Even if you have many times without a problem, one day it will probably catch up to you." Safe options for resuscitating fallen food:

  • Slice off the part that touched the floor
  • Reheat food to 165° F
  • Turn crudité into a stir-fry or sliced fruit into a warm compote.
52% of you dish out food past the expiration date
Spoiler alert: There's no harm done. In fact, the other 48 percent of poll-takers are probably wasting perfectly good food. "Dates on food have more to do with quality than safety," says Joan Salge Blake, RD, a spokesperson with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Per the United States Department of Agriculture, dried goods such as crackers or chips that are past their "use-by" date aren't usually a problem. Ditto for milk, cheese, or yogurt that are dated by a few days and don't smell foul or have mold (the blue-green stuff can cause gastric distress). Eggs are typically fine for as long as three to five weeks past the day you bought them. However, avoid fresh meat, chicken, turkey, or fish that's more than a few days past its use-by date—or you risk food poisoning.

31% of you don't toss food with bugs
With many of us buying organic these days, it's more likely that you'll spot an aphid or earthworm on your produce. Screech if you must, then remove it and keep eating—it's harmless, says Sarah Klein, a food safety expert with the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Ditto for a random ant or spider on food.

One exception: If you see a cockroach in a food, it hitched a ride from the kitchen, not the farm. Since these creepy crawlies can transmit organisms like salmonella that cause food-borne illness, dump the dish.
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Karen Cicero
Last Updated: December 01, 2012

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