Keeping in mind that September is National Food Safety Education month, let's test your food safety IQ! Think you know about food safety? Participants in a recent study earned high marks on a food safety quiz, yet neglected to use the food safety steps in their kitchens.

They are not alone. Common food safety mistakes stem from concepts learned in kindergarten or before - they are easy to do, but often are overlooked.

Thousands of people die each year from food borne illness that could have easily been prevented. Test yourself with this do-it-yourself quiz to test your food safety savvy:

True or False:

Cooked foods left sitting on a counter for two hours can be refrigerated and later reheated for another meal.

— True, but only if the food has been sitting on the kitchen table or counter and has not been exposed to heat, high humidity or direct sunlight. Food left at a picnic or tailgate party should be placed out of direct sunlight; kept covered; and discarded after an hour if the temperature is more than 70 degrees F. Before serving, reheat leftovers until they are piping hot.

True or False:

A refrigerator should be 40 F inside.

— True. To keep bacteria in check, a refrigerator should be 40 F; a freezer should be kept at 0 degrees F. Monitor temperatures with inexpensive thermometers available at hardware, discount department and kitchen stores, and some supermarkets.

True or False:

Raw meat or poultry leaks onto other foods in the refrigerator, including grapes in a bowl below.

The grapes may be contaminated.

— True: Foods can become contaminated in the refrigerator. To prevent contamination from drippings, meats, poultry, fish, and other foods that may leak, the foods should be placed in a leak-proof container on a lower shelf.

For example, wrap chicken breasts in a re-sealable bag and place the bag in a pie plate on the lowest shelf. 

True or False:

An acrylic cutting board is preferable to wood.

— True: Newer acrylic cutting boards can be sanitized easily in the dishwasher. Both acrylic and wood boards can get cuts and grooves from use that make them harder to clean. Sanitize a cutting board between each use to reduce risks from cross contamination, one of the most common - and most deadly - food safety mistakes.

Cross contamination can occur when two foods come into contact with each other; when a knife used to cut meat also is used to chop raw vegetables before it has been washed and sanitized or when food is touched with unclean hands. 

True or False:

When a hamburger turns brown, it's done.

— False. Researchers at Kansas State University have determined that some ground beef browns before it has reached the safe temperature of 155 F. Using a meat thermometer is the only sure way to tell if a hamburger is cooked completely. A meat thermometer is not the same as a medical thermometer. Inexpensive disposable thermometers can be purchased for a dollar or less.

Reusable thermometers can be purchased for $10 or less at hardware, discount department and kitchen specialty shops, and in many supermarkets. Using a thermometer can substantially reduce food safety risks.

True or False:

Neglecting to wash your hands each time food is handled and before and after eating is one of the most frequent food safety mistakes.

— True. It's also one of the easiest to correct. Lather for 20 seconds, rinse in warm water.

Whether you answered these questions right or wrong isn't as important as the last question: Have you practiced good food safety habits today? Doing so can save your life.

For more information on food safety and health, contact the McPherson K-State

Research and Extension office or website at