Where do you find the grubbiest germs in restaurants? Appearances can be deceptive and what you see may not be what you get. Most of us get so taken up by liveried waiters and swanky interiors that we do not realize that there could be a zillion germs lurking in the most unlikely of places. Here's what my research has shown up.
1. Lemon water
If you're served flavoured water, it is likely to have lemon slices floating in it, and chances are it's also ridden with bacteria. I am not making this up, a recent study showed that most chefs do not use gloves while cutting lemons and they are often contaminated from fecal bacteria or salmonella. One of the reasons for this is that chefs will slice the lemon just after they have handled all kinds of meats. So next time you order that iced tea or flavored water, give a thought to where the garnish is coming from.
Menus are the known villains in a restaurant. Typically menu cards change many a hand in one day and are never cleaned or wiped in between restaurant guests. Consider this - a typical cold and flu virus can survive for 18 hours on hard surfaces, making menus the most common germ carriers in a restaurant. It might be a good idea to avoid placing the menu on your plate.
3. Soap Dispensers
This may sound silly but a lot of germs accumulate where people actually clean their hands. Most of the bacteria from the hands tend to stick to the bottom of the dispensers where they keep multiplying. Also, the bathroom should follow hygiene standards and be basically clean. My good friend and restaurateur Ritu Dalmia, always said -- the bathroom is a good indicator. If the restaurant does not care to clean it, chances are the kitchen is filthy too.
4. Ice machines5. Tabletop condiments
Not too long back, the Daily Mail collected ice from ten fast-food franchises, and found that in six out of ten locations, those innocuous cubes contained higher levels of bacteria than the water samples taken from toilet bowls at the same establishments. Now this may seem like an exaggeration, and I have no way of confirming the veracity of this fact, but it's a common fact that ice machines are store houses of bacteria.
Very few eateries will actually clean ketchup bottles and condiments through the day. Your salt and pepper shakers, olive oil and balsamic bottles, oregano containers, ketchup and mustard bottles are a hotbed for germs. There is a very slim chance of the previous customer at the restaurant washing his hands before touching any of these.
Some people believe that you shouldn't give a care in the world, and let your immune system fight it all out. But there could be those who aren't strong enough to withstand this assault of germs, it maybe a good idea to carry a hand sanitizer or wipes to clean your hands after you order and before you eat.