Hidden Germs in Restaurants

by Alli

We’ve all read horror stories about hidden germs in restaurants.  And, frankly, sometimes I get so grossed out that I actually think that I had rather not know.

I’m not quite a germaphobe – just really, really close to being one. And we all know that germs lurk in places that we never even dream of!

I’ve compiled a list of hidden germs that I know about.  And I’m sure you can add to this list!

Hidden Germs in Restaurants

1.  Buffet Bars


Hidden Germs

I never, ever, ever, ever eat at buffets (unless I’m forced to because I’m with someone else and I can’t be rude and my hands are tied behind my back and I have a gun stuck in my ribs – OK, I’ve been watching too many cop shows).  I just don’t like the idea of endless food that other people are touching and cute, little, unsupervised children are sticking their grubby little hands into.  I once saw a child (too short for the sneeze guard) sneeze right into a platter of fried chicken on a buffet bar.  No, thanks.

I shudder when I think about those buffet bars that have chocolate fountains.  You do know that the chocolate is recirculating, right?  And you do know that people are dipping fruit, cake, etc. into that chocolate, right?  And you do know that sometimes their hands touch that chocolate, right?  What we don’t know is where that hand has been!

I also read that most buffet bars don’t follow the rules of how long the food should hang out on the bar and the correct temp that the food should be.  Again, no thanks!

2.  Dirty Hands

Just because the rules of hand washing are posted on the bathroom walls, does not mean that the people preparing and handling your food adhere to said rules.  Recently I was having breakfast with my husband and brother-in-law in a restaurant where you can see into the kitchen.  A waitress (who happened to be ours – lucky us) was taking a smoke break outside the restaurant as we walked in.  When she finished, she walked into the open kitchen and assumed her duties.  Did she wash her hands?  No!

3.  Dirty Floors

I hate to go into a restaurant restroom and not have a hook to hang my purse.  Did you know that most of the germs that make it into your house arrive via your purse?  Enough said.  Keep that purse off of the dirty floor!

4.  Lemons and Limes

Hidden Germs


I always have a lime with my water when dining out.  Well, I’m rethinking that decision.  According to the Journal of Environmental Healthswabs from 70% of lemons and limes in restaurants grew potentially harmful bacteria.  They don’t know exactly where the germs come from, but they think it could be cross contamination from raw meat and unwashed hands.

5.  Ice

Ice???? An Indianapolis news station sampled ice at 25 local restaurants to be analyzed at a state-certified laboratory. More than half tested positive for coliform bacteria—two of which were specific for E. coli.  Nine of the samples had more bacteria than the news station’s toilet!  Most of the bacteria comes from improper cleaning of the ice machine and unwashed hands.  Unwashed hands seems to be a recurring problem.

Psst:  I’ve heard that some ice cream machines in certain fast food restaurants do not get properly cleaned either.  But that could be an urban myth.  We can only hope.

I was in a mid range chain restaurant a while back.  As I walked out of the restroom I could see straight into the kitchen.  It was filthy!  The floor was disgusting.  Good thing I had already eaten.

And just because a restaurant is high-end, does not make it immune to hidden germs!

What to do?  Should we never eat out again?  Of course not!  One bad apple don’t spoil the whole bunch, girl!  Most restaurants are clean!

I always check the restaurant rating!  And I pay attention to the bathroom.  I’ve noticed that a clean restroom usually equals a clean restaurant.

And it’s a good thing I pray over all of my meals.

Have I missed some hidden germs?  What are some ways that you judge a restaurant’s cleanliness?