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5 Gross Facts You Never Knew About Restaurant Food

5 Gross Facts You Never Knew About Restaurant Food

Hey, the title warned you—don’t blame me if you need to cancel your dinner reservations after reading this.

Mother Jones recently reported that restaurants and delis are the source of more than half of foodborne illness outbreaks (which kill three thousand Americans every year). What’s making people sick? Health specialists for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found out … and the answers are stomach-churning.


1. Half of food workers say they work while ill.

Twenty percent of them have even vomited or had diarrhea during at lease one shift in 2012. Twelve percent had those symptoms for at least two shifts.

Why don’t they just go home? Well, many don’t feel it’s an option with no paid sick time or no sick leave policy at their job. And according to the CDC, many workers are also concerned about leaving their team short-staffed.


2. Know the safe cooking temperature for chicken? More than half of restaurant managers don’t.

And fewer than half of restaurant managers reported that they use the FDA-recommended method of taking the temperature with a thermometer to determine when chicken had reached its final cook temperature. Meanwhile, over half used methods like evaluating the chicken’s appearance and feel, or the staff’s experience and skill. (It’s 165 degrees Fahrenheit, by the way!)


3. They’re eyeballing the doneness of your burger, too.

Almost half of chefs don’t bother with a thermometer to check when  a burger is done, opting to use color or feel as their cue instead. Not all of them succeeded—CDC inspectors found that 12 percent of the burgers they tested were undercooked (less than 155 degrees Fahrenheit).


4. Basic food safety practices aren’t enforced.

Forty percent of restaurants were found not to use separate cutting boards for raw chicken, and 25 percent of managers said they don’t use disposable gloves to handle chicken. Meanwhile, nearly two-thirds of restaurant workers didn’t wash their hands between handling raw beef and handling cooked food, increasing the risk of E.coli spreading to cooked food.


5. The veggies are also suspect.

Think at least the leafy greens must be safe? Not according to one study, which found that almost half of vegetable shipments were not delivered at the recommended temperature, which can promote the growth of germs.


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Read more: Food, General Health, Health

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Diana Vilibert

Diana Vilibert is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn. You can be blog-friends with her at, or tweet her at @dianavilibert.


+ add your own
12:43PM PST on Mar 8, 2014

Thanks for sharing...

6:07PM PST on Feb 23, 2014

Ive had food poisoning twice, once from chicken, once from hot dogs. BOTH, from restaurants.

2:58PM PST on Feb 15, 2014

I also want to comment on halal meats that may be served in restaurants. Those animals are actually slughtered more humanely than those killed in commercial slaughterhouses. Ritual killing usually involves the use of a razor sharp knife to the jugular that kills in seconds. The animal is usually killed individually rather than in a group of animals, which reduces it's stress and butchered in a much cleaner manner than in a slaughterhouse. I'm not Muslim, but I raise goats and sell to ethnic markets. I'd much rather eat meat that was killed on the farm than one that was killed and butchered in the unsanitary conditions of most large commercial slaughterhouses.

2:52PM PST on Feb 15, 2014

Interesting reading. I've worked in the food service industry in the past and hold a degree in food service management. We were taught to take the temperature of meat, use separate cutting boards for meat and veggies and to constantly wash our hands. Did I see these practices in every place I worked - not all of them. We did prepare raw meat and other foods on separate areas, but I don't recall seeing the cooks use meat thermometers. As for employees coming to work sick - sure, many do. Most restaurants do not provide workers with sick days or medical insurance. I only went home if I had stomach issues, but worked with a cold. Though I no longer work in food service, I work in retail. We do get PTO to use either for vacation or sick time. We also have an attendance policy that assigns points to employees who do not have prior approval for time off. If the manager sends someone home due to illness, they also won't get a point. Thus, many employees come in with illnesses. If the boss sends themm home they go, but many are working with colds and flu if they are able to keep performing. People don't want to risk losing their jobs for taking off work.

8:38AM PST on Jan 23, 2014

Ups... glad I'm vegetarian... seems a little safer... :(

7:08PM PST on Jan 20, 2014

Oh, help!

7:03PM PST on Jan 20, 2014

I rarely eat out. If you go to a restaurant and find the food to be undercooked or tough to chew, send it back! I've never done this but will from now on. I almost choked on a steak that was too tough to chew, asked for a medium steak and it was almost raw, suffered through a meal I couldn't stand the taste of etc. You are paying to get what you ordered. If it's not cooked the way you asked, or if it tastes bad I say SEND IT BACK!

3:57PM PST on Jan 9, 2014

Thanks for sharing.

1:08AM PST on Jan 4, 2014

Thank you :)

6:45AM PST on Jan 2, 2014

restaurant foods even for the poshest of them i avoid, especially now they serve people with halal meats, this is the time to boycott meat altogether, untill companies realise non muslims not eat ritually slaughtered animals! i dont hold with such cruelties

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