Americans are twice as likely to get food poisoning from food prepared at a restaurant then food prepared at home, according to a new study from the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). Their analysis of “solved” outbreaks over a 10-year period found a total of 1,610 restaurant-linked outbreaks that sickened some 28,000 people, compared with 893 outbreaks traced to private homes that caused nearly 13,000 individual cases of illness.
Another issue of concern cited by CSPI is a decrease in the reporting of foodborne illness outbreaks as the group claims 42 percent or fewer outbreaks were reported by states to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last year. The question is whether foodborne illnesses have really declined or are they just not being reported as much as they used to be.
We have become a society of eating out and grabbing food on the go. The more we consume food “out” we place ourselves at the mercy of the restaurant employees. Whereas cooking at home we can control the obvious, “washing our hands properly” and “cooking food to the proper temperature”, etc. While eating out we “roll the dice” and hope the food service workers have been trained properly in food sanitation practices.
Of course many restaurants have excellent reputations when it comes to food safety but it is always important to be as careful as possible when dining out. Here are some tips when eating out to keep you safe from foodborne illness. If you see employees with dirty uniforms or aprons, personal hygiene may not be a priority and you may want to eat elsewhere. Look at the flooring, tables or carpeting when dining and if these are dirty, let a supervisor or manager know.
A huge problem and dangerous one is cold food. If you order something that is supposed to be hot and it comes out stone cold, this can be an instant appetite killer. Do not eat cold food that is supposed to be hot. Let the server and manager know immediately. Not serving food at the proper temperature can make customers become ill and could lead to a foodborne illness outbreak.
One of the most important areas to check out is the restroom. Make sure there is soap, warm water, paper towels or hand dryers. If the restroom is unclean, this can be an overall sign that the restaurant does not have a routine cleaning program in place. The restroom that customers use is often the same one that the staff uses. If there is no soap or warm water for customers, then the staff are not properly washing their hands either. Although it is easy to be disgusted when you see a filthy restroom, take the extra five minutes and tell the manager or supervisor about your concerns. Reputation is everything in the restaurant business so managers want you to tell them about the issues you had, rather than have you complain on social media to all your friends about the bad experience.
We all enjoy a night off from cooking, but next time you dine out, make sure you watch your surroundings when you eat and keep yourself happy and healthy.