New Study Shows Belief In Food Safety Myths Could Make You Sick

If you have a favorite hangover remedy, you may want to take it with a grain of salt, especially if it involves raw eggs. That's because a recent study published in Food Control, a scientific journal affiliated with the European Federation of Food Science and Technology and the International Union of Food Science and Technology, identified a clear connection between making risky food choices based on falsehoods and the real physical consequences of those decisions, specifically incidents of gastroenteritis.

According to Food Safety News, researchers conducted a web-based survey focused on food safety myths prevalent in the U.K., Germany, and Norway. To prepare for the study, they compiled a list of 150 commonly-believed falsehoods before narrowing the list to 47. More than 3,000 people responded to the survey by indicating whether they agreed or disagreed with a collection of food safety-related statements, with 15% of respondents steadfastly adhering to a belief that a breakfast of raw eggs after a night of drinking is the best way to cure a hangover despite scientific evidence to the contrary.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists contaminated eggs among the most common causes of salmonella, a food-borne illness that causes diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps. To avoid potential infection, the CDC advises cooking eggs to an internal temperature of 160°F. If you rely on a breakfast of raw eggs to cure a hangover, you may be setting yourself up for something even worse.

Change can be challenging

The study also revealed country-specific nuances. Food Safety News stated that respondents from Germany believed that eating too much healthy food can reduce its health benefits and that cooking food unequivocally kills all bacteria, making it totally safe for consumption. U.K. respondents revealed a tendency to adhere to traditional cooking methods as better than adopting modern techniques. Norwegians trust the smell test — if food smells okay, it must be safe to eat.

In a perfect world, an occasional misunderstanding or quirky belief in an old tale wouldn't cause alarm. However, in the food world, it can be dangerous. At best, the ingestion of a food-borne pathogen can cause mild discomfort. At its worst, food-related gastroenteritis can lead to serious illness and hospitalization (via the CDC). And getting people with firmly-held but inaccurate beliefs and myths to consider alternatives can be an uphill battle. According to Food Safety News, researchers determined people who adhere to falsehoods about food usually accept the premise but then look for evidence to support their position, so they're not likely open to discussion even when faced with scientific data.

According to the journal Food Control, researchers set out to determine if there is a definitive relationship between a belief in food-related myths and incidents of gastroenteritis. The results of the study give credence to their theory that there is a connection. Their conclusion? Future studies should dig deeper into the cause-and-effect while investigating how to sway people away from falsehoods.