Have you ever suspected that you or a member of your family got food poisoning form a restaurant? Millions of foodborne illnesses occur each year in the US.
About 20 percent of food borne illness is linked to food prepared in private homes. Over 40 percent are linked to restaurant foods.
We assume that when we eat out our food is safe. Even with health inspections, some restaurant workers may not have a full grasp of what it takes to keep food safe from contamination.
Angel & Ally think eating out is fun!
Though rats and roaches are the most disgusting violations, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention counts improper holding temperatures, lack of hand washing, improper cooking, contaminated surfaces and unsafe food sources as the top disease-related factors.
Improper hand washing, which might be indicated by a lack of hot water at a sink, can spread Hepatitis A, Shigella, or norovirus to diners. Foods not held at the proper temperature can foster the growth of dangerous bacteria such as Clostridium perfringen or Staphylococus aureus. Salmonella or E. Coli O157:H7 can sicken diners when meat or poultry is undercooked or when raw foods are placed on unclean food surfaces.
A recent study from the University of Illinois at Chicago posed a series of food safety questions to area food handlers. They found the average respondent was able to answer only 72 percent of them correctly. A C- might be a passing grade, but it’s not too comforting, when one mistake could make you or your children sick.
Because your food is prepared out of your view, it can be difficult as a customer to know when food is mishandled. Food should be cooked to the proper temperature. Food should be stored properly. Produce should all be washed. Cross-contamination is avoided by using separate cuttings boards and utensils.
You can take measures to protect your family when you eat out by being aware of what to look for:
Cleanliness is King
- Do you see staff washing their hands?
- you see people wiping their face with their hands and then not immediately going to wash their hands?
- Are employees handling money and then food directly afterward?
- Are workers scooping ice with their hands on the glass instead of using ice tongs?
(Even if your server uses tongs, perhaps others are not. I always ask for water with-OUT ice.)
- Check out the bathroom. It can be a good barometer of the overall cleanliness of a restaurant.
Preparation & Storage
- Do you see thermometers placed where cold food is stored, i.e. in the fish case at a sushi restaurant or at a salad bar?
- Serve yourself salad bars should be kept at 41 degrees F or below.
- Hot food should be kept at 135 F degrees or higher.
- Order meat, especially hamburgers to be cooked to a temperature of 160oF and send it back if it is still pink in the middle.
Report suspected foodborne illnesses to the health department. The local public health department is an important part of the food safety system. Often calls from concerned citizens are how outbreaks are first detected.
For a synopsis of Baby Bites: Transforming a Picky Eater into a Healthy Eater, Click Here.