At one point in time we have all treated ourselves to a nice meal at a restaurant. Usually when dining at a respectable restaurant we tend to assume it is clean, sanitary and up to health regulations. Sadly, most of the time it’s far from it. Bacteria and viruses are the most common cause of food poisoning. The symptoms and severity of food poisoning vary depending on which bacteria or virus has contaminated the food. Symptoms could include abdominal pain, fever, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, weakness, & headaches.

When it comes to germs in food service, the germiest places may not be the most obvious. That bottle of ketchup you use for your fries at your local chip stand is filled not only with ketchup, but bacteria and viruses that can make you sick. Usually refillable condiments sit out in the sun all day unrefrigerated, which is a health hazard on its own. The gross reality is that most refillable condiment bottles are filled with new product right on top of the old, without the container being washed regularly. Single serving condiment packages or individual portion cups are a big step towards cleanliness and ensuring the health of customers. Trust us, the few extra cents are worth combating ill customers and negative reviews of your restaurant.

Restaurants that offer all you can eat buffets aren’t always the best choice either. Serving utensils such as serving spoons, tongs, forks and sneeze guards found in these locations are rarely cleaned during the business hours of the restaurant. That being said, if surfaces and serving utensils aren’t cleaned every two to three hours, they become coated with bacteria and viruses making it easy to transmit from person to person.

Thinking of ordering a nice cold beverage with your meal? This might make you reconsider. Recently a few fast food restaurants participated in a study regarding cleanliness. Staff were asked to provide a samples of ice and toilet water to be tested, and the results were shocking. Several of the restaurants tested presented very high levels of microbes considered to be a “Hygiene Risk”. In some cases, toilets were found to be cleaned more often than ice containers and scoopers.

Here are some of the results gathered:

McDonald’s: Ice bacteria count: 1.400 organisms and 260 in toilet water.

Pizza Hut: Ice bacteria count: 430 organisms and toilet water exceeded drinking water standards.

Burger King. Ice bacteria count: 260 organisms while toilet water was within drinking water regulations.

Lemon and lime wedges also aren’t as clean as they may look. Most restaurants never take the time to wash lemons; the majority of the time they stay in the box they were shipped in until they end up on your plate or hanging off the side of the fruity cocktail you ordered. As odd as it may seem, reports indicate lemon wedges are frequently contaminated with fecal matter and other bacteria and viruses that can leave you feeling sick.

Bottom line, before heading out to eat you may want to check local reviews of restaurants online. If other patrons report being ill, chances are you might end up the same way.