Do Microwaves Kill Germs?

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After a long day of work, the last thing you want to do is worry about cooking dinner. As you rummage through the freezer, you pull out a few TV dinners and pop them in the microwave. In just minutes, your microwave turns your frozen food into a steaming-hot, ready-to-serve meal. Although microwaving your food makes it hot, it doesn't always kill the germs and bacteria that can cause illness.

How Microwaves Work

  • Microwaves heat food by emitting high-frequency radiation waves. These waves bounce all around the microwave, causing friction of the molecules. This movement causes heat, which is transferred throughout the food and the microwave. This process causes the food to heat from the outside to the inside.

Bacterial Strength

  • The heat of a microwave can easily penetrate bacteria, causing irreversible destruction of their DNA, thus impairing their ability to successfully multiply. However, some bacteria are able to withstand the heat. These bacteria produce spores when in a stressed environment, such as inside a heated microwave. Although the bacteria may die, the heat-resistant spores are left behind. If you consume food with spores in it, these spores could replicate in your body, release toxins and cause illness.

Microwave Faults

  • Microwaves that lack rotating capabilities make it easier for bacteria to remain in cooking food, since the radiation waves may not be penetrating the food completely. You have to compensate for this by repositioning and flipping your food as it cooks. You may also have to cut your food into small pieces, then microwaving it, or microwaving your food to thaw it then using an oven or stove to finish cooking it. It is very important to check the temperature of meats to ensure they're at a safe temperature.

Preventing Illness

  • Besides cooking your food completely, you should frequently sanitize your microwave with bleach to help prevent the growth of bacteria. Even though your microwave may kill some of the bacteria in the food, some bacteria already in the microwave can penetrate your food and cause illness. It is also important to properly store food in your refrigerator and freezer, always keeping the temperature below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. This will ensure that you won't place contaminated food into your microwave.

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