We love going out to eat. What’s not to love? The atmosphere, the music, the company, and the good food are all reasons enough on their own to hit up a restaurant. Once the appetizers have been served and you’re a few drinks in, you may want to consider something else, though. The germs you’re coming into contact with from the time you enter to the time you leave can be pretty substantial. We’ve got the top germiest places in restaurants so you can be more aware.
1. Salt And Pepper Shakers
What gives with this one? It’s not like people are sneezing onto the shakers… right? Well, these helpful tools can still host tons of bacteria. Dr. Charles Gerba, a University of Arizona microbiologist told ABC that germs love to live on the tops of pepper shakers. “Sometimes pepper can have a large number of bacteria in general. Bacteria do like pepper. There’s stuff to grow there, so probably – maybe pepper’s used more?” Not to mention, when was the last time you saw a restaurant wash their shakers? Time to start bringing packets from home…
2. Lemon Wedges
This one sounds weird right off the bat, but studies discovered that lemon slice and wedges do possess germs. One paper found that 70 percent of the lemon slices they collected from 21 restaurants had some sort of microbial growth on it. The authors mentioned it’s hard to pinpoint where the germs come from, but it could be from cross-contamination when employees touch raw food and then the lemon wedges or don’t wash their hands before coming out of the bathroom. Maybe it’s best to skip out on the lemon.
This one should be a no-brainer. E.Coli and other bacteria can survive being hand-washed or going through a cycle in the dishwasher. Women’s Magazine spoke with Donna Duberg, assistant professor of Clinical Laboratory Science at Saint Louis University, who told them that norovirus particles survived both methods of washing and can spread really quickly. She added, though, that it’s okay if not everything is removed when washing; enough of the particles are, which means they’re not dangerous. “What we’re doing is trying to reduce the number of germs to a level that our bodies can handle—one we can clear with our defense system,” she said.
We’ve seen busboys scrub down the tables before we sit down, but there’s still the issue of what they’re cleaning it with. That dirty cloth or rag has made its rounds and now it’s making its way to our table. It might seem gross, but Chauncy Williams, sanitarian supervisor for the city of Dallas told Dallas News that sanitarians are constantly ensuring cleaning methods are up to code. “That’s all checked any time we’re out there doing an inspection. It may appear dirty, but there is a requirement that that wiping cloth is clean,” he said.
This really shouldn’t surprise you either. Though they should, some restaurants rarely clean their menus despite all the people who handle them. Cleaning Maintenance and Management published an article stating that menus can be germier than a toilet seat. Per square centimeter, menus can have up to 185,000 bacteria present. Matt Morrison, communications director for Kaivac told them that customers should use hand sanitizer after touching the menu.
6. Booster Seats and High Chairs
Top of the list is children’s seats. Think about all the soiled diapers and germs kids bring with them anyway. Coming into contact with that before you eat is no good. Huffington Post reported that “tests carried out on high chairs in 30 restaurants found the amount of bacteria present averaged out at 147 per square metre – compared with eight per square metre on public toilets.” You should aim to give any high chairs a rinse with a Clorox wipe before placing your kids inside.
Well, now you know. These are the dirtiest places in restaurants and while they’re not enough to drive away consumers (and they shouldn’t be), it might be worth packing some hand sanitizer with you before you go out.