It’s Not the Mayo! Food Safety Myths and Summertime Food

July 26, 2022

Safe food is essential to good health and well-being, especially for older adults. Yet we often take it for granted that the food we choose to eat and that others serve to us is safe. When food is safe, we can fully enjoy the nutritional, social, and emotional benefits of enjoying a solo meal or sharing a meal with others.

One food that takes unfair blame for causing foodborne illness is mayonnaise (especially during the summer). However, mayo is not the culprit in making people at picnics sick. Commercial mayo, along with about 250 other foods, has a strict Standard of Identity (SOI) established by the FDA in 1939 to prevent food fraud. Some other foods with SOIs include milk, chocolate, and ketchup.

Commercial mayo is acidified with vinegar or lemon juice and made with pasteurized eggs to make it safe. In most mayo-based food salads, such as potato, chicken, pasta, or hard-boiled egg, low-acid foods offset the acidity of the mayo, creating an environment where bacteria can thrive given other conditions. In addition, it’s usually other factors which increase the risk of foodborne illness.

Here are seven tips to help you keep food safe (not just in the summer, but year-round):

  • WASH HANDS thoroughly with soap and water!!
  • Keep raw food separate from cooked food to avoid cross contamination
  • Marinate food in the fridge, not on the counter
  • Cook food thoroughly: hamburgers to 160 degrees and chicken to 165 degrees (worth investing in a food thermometer)
  • Refrigerate and freeze food promptly. Never leave food out for more than one hour when the temperature is above 90 degrees, or two hours if less than 90 degrees
  • Keep hot food at or above 140 degrees
  • Keep cold food at or below 40 degrees

One of my favorite ways to use mayo is in a chicken salad. Click this link for a Curried Chicken Salad recipe by The Real Food Dietitians. You can make this salad a bit lighter by swapping out half of the mayo for plain Greek yogurt.

Additional swaps to make it your own might include using lemon juice instead of lime juice, halved grapes instead of diced apple, dried cranberries instead of raisins, chopped walnuts or pecans instead of cashews, and fresh mint instead of cilantro. It’s your salad – have fun making it your own and have a safe-food summer!

Interested in a non-mayo sandwich recipe? Try our lemon vinaigrette hummus wrap. 

~Rose Clifford, Senior Nutrition Program Manager