It’s safe to say that practically everyone has dined out at a restaurant before. If you have, you will be able to imagine the setting.
Tables and chairs decked out across the interior. Sometimes each table has free condiments including sauces, and pepper and salt.
Sometimes each table has forks and spoon or knife already set out. And some restaurants put their menus on the tables in advance.
Since restaurants are where we have our meals, you’d think the team who run these establishments would keep them squeaky clean.
To our eyes they may look that way, but you should know that they still can’t run away from germs. And they’re not only found on the floor or restroom.
Don’t be surprised, but there are also germs on the dining tables themselves! Sure, they are wiped clean (perhaps only sometimes) but have you thought about the items placed on them? How dirty they too can be?
Researchers from the University of Arizona partnered up with ABC News to find out. The results may surprise you but come to think of it, it does make sense.
The research team had swabbed items such as salt and pepper shakers, sauce bottles, sugar cases and even the menus, from 12 restaurants in America.
The swabs were then examined to determine the total bacteria counts, as well as coliforms (a wide class of bacteria found in our environment), which can indicate fecal matter.
Gross! Can you guess which is the “germiest”?
“These are objects you’re going to touch that can serve as vehicles which transmit micro-organisms that can potentially make you ill,” says Dr Chuck Gerba of the University of Arizona.
Unfortunately, these items are placed in the area where you dine, which potentially allows germs to enter your body.
But let’s check out which item is the biggest culprit:
- Sugar has the least amount of bacteria, with 2,300 organisms
- Sauces and salt fall in the middle
- Pepper is the second highest, with nearly 11,600 organisms
- The “germiest” item is menus, with 185,000 bacterial organisms
Why are these items so dirty?
Well, when you use them, you usually won’t think of the hundreds of people that may have touched it prior.
If you think about it, imagine how much restaurant menus are handled, being handed over by the waitress and being looked through at the table. Have you ever touched one and found that it was sticky?
Dr Gerba says, “You probably have about 100 times more bacteria on that menu than you do a typical toilet seat in the restroom.” Yuck!
So remember the next time you eat out, you may be getting a little something extra than what you ordered. Ahem.
Thankfully, most of the bacteria found are not harmful, but according to experts, the most common illnesses you contract get are respiratory infections.
And paper menus are better than plastic ones, since paper is not a great breeding ground for germs.
To shield yourself from the germs, simply wash your hands after using the menu to order. A tip for parents: keep the menus away from your young children.