Eating Out Safely

Almost nothing can ruin a trip or a pleasant meal out more than foodborne illness. Although restaurants in the United States, Canada, and many other developed nations must pass strict public health regulations, you're still wise to double-check for cleanliness. Any restaurant can have an occasional lapse in sanitation procedure, and in some parts of the world, these regulations may not exist. Hotel staff often can recommend restaurants with high standards.

These tips can help ensure that the meal you eat away from home won't come back to "bite you":

  • Check for cleanliness. Although you probably can't see into the kitchen, you can learn a lot about a restaurant by looking at the public areas. Look for:
  • Tables that are wiped clean—using clean cloths
  • Well-groomed servers
  • Clean silverware, tablecloths, glasses, and dishes
  • Adequate screening over windows and doors to keep out insects
  • No flies or roaches, which can spread disease
  • Clean rest rooms with soap, hot water, and towels or air dryers
  • A clean exterior with no uncovered garbage
  • Before you eat from a food bar, check the temperature. A hot buffet should be piping hot. And a cold salad bar should be well chilled or placed on ice.
  • Order food from food bars and displays only if the food is properly covered with a sneeze guard or a hood. This includes desserts and appetizers.
  • Be cautious about raw meat and fish; they may carry bacteria and parasites. These menu items are served raw: steak tartare (raw ground beef and raw eggs), carpaccio (thin-sliced raw beef), and sashimi (raw fish). Sushi, often made with raw fish, is popular among many restaurantgoers. See "Is Raw Seafood Safe to Eat?" in chapter 12 for guidance on sashimi.
  • Check your burger. It should be cooked until the center is no longer pink and the juices run clear, usually "medium" or "medium-well." If it's not cooked thoroughly, send it back!
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