Meridian Star

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March 6, 2013

How to prevent food-borne illnesses

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"If a customer goes into a restaurant where the washrooms are disgusting, that customer tends to view those washrooms as an indicator of how things are run. If the operator isn’t willing to take the time to clean the bathrooms, customers will wonder what else the operator is slacking on.”

And it’s not only bathrooms that restaurant patrons should be worried about. Many experts say restaurant ice machines can be filled with loads of bacteria and in some cases researchers have found the same amount of bacteria in ice cubes that happens to be in toilet water.

In May of 2012, an Indiana news team visited a total of 18 restaurants in the local area and asked for cups of ice that were then given to a scientific lab for testing. The restaurants tested were a combination of fancy eateries, diners, casino restaurants and fast-food places. Among the 18 establishments visited, a number of them had ice cubes and cups that contained E.coli and other bacteria.

Dr. Rebecca Wong, a microbiologist who tested the cups of ice, says a common way for ice cubes to become contaminated is from employees using the bathroom, not washing their hands and dipping those hands into the ice machine to prepare drinks.

“You have this stuff swimming in your cup and it’s not supposed to be there,” she said. "These restaurants should definitely take some action to find out where this contamination is coming from."

Obviously not all places do, so consumers should use their eyes and ears to determine if there are any violations being committed and also visit government websites that can give you a restaurant's history when it comes to cleanliness or receiving health violations.

The address of these types of sites differ from state to state, so it’s best to do a Google search to find the specific websites for your area. Most of all, if you see something that looks a little off, report it, because we all need to share information to keep each other safe and healthy.

Story provided by ConsumerAffairs.

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