Where to find germs in restaurants

By Time of article published Nov 21, 2012

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London - The biggest germ traps found in restaurants have nothing to do with undercooked meat or day-old seafood. It’s the menu and the seats customers sit on you should be worried about.

An American TV reporter, Elisabeth Leamy of ABC News, went undercover at 10 restaurants in three US states and found horrifying bacteria lurking in restaurants’ most unlikely places.

She took swab samples from surfaces you typically come in contact with at a restaurant, which showed the top four dirtiest culprits are the chairs, menus, lemons in drinks, and salt and pepper shakers.

Dr Philip Tierno, of New York University’s microbiology department, tested the samples, and found that 70 percent of the chair seats Leamy sampled had 17 kinds of bad bacteria on them, including strains of E. coli.

Most restaurants don’t think to sanitise them.

Leamy advises customers to take a seat, order food, and then get up to wash your hands, for 20 seconds with soap, before you eat.

Of the menus she had tested, the lab found the bacteria that causes staph infections on at least one, and the germs that cause strep throat on another.

Lemon wedges used for drinks and on the sides of salads are also another worrying germ trap.

Half the wedges tested were contaminated with faecal matter. Cameras caught restaurant workers using their bare hands to reach for lemon wedges, without gloves or tongs, causing germs to spread quickly if they hadn’t washed their hands well after using the bathroom.

Howard Cannon, a restaurant consultant for insurance companies investigating claims of food poisoning, recently said on Anderson Cooper’s show, Anderson: “The outside of the lemon doesn’t get washed. The wedges are cut well in advance for high volume, and they’ll squeeze the lemon into the water, rub it around the edge of the glass. It’s just moving bacteria from lemon into the water.”

The same goes for salt and pepper shakers, which are used often, but rarely cleaned. Half of the swabs Leamy took were contaminated.

The rims of glasses were found to be the sixth most worrisome spot for hidden germs.

Waiters grip glasses right at the top where customers drink, “giving pathogens a direct route into our bodies”. Leamy’s tests detected multiple bacteria, including one linked with tuberculosis.

Interestingly, the bathroom taps and doorknobs were harbouring the least amount of germs, along with salad tongs and tomato sauce bottles; “because they get cleaned often”, said Leamy. “Or Americans aren’t eating enough salad.” – Daily Mail



1. Seats

2. Menus

3. Lemon wedges

4. Salt and pepper shakers

5. Tables

6. Rims of glasses

7. Bathroom door knobs

8. Bathroom taps

9. Tomato sauce bottles

10. Salad bar tongs

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