A Health Inspector’s Guide To Dining Out

Food safety expert Peter DeLucia explains how to stay healthy when dining out.

Posted on | By Peter DeLucia, MPA
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Dining Out Dangers, Pt 1 (5:53)

We all enjoy going out for a bite to eat, but we don’t want to end up getting sick in the process! Here are a few simple tips that can help you make some smart decisions when dining out.

Clean bathroom = safer, sanitary restaurant

Every Health Inspector knows that more often than not a restaurant’s bathroom is a window into the entire operation. If it’s not clean, brightly lit and fully supplied with liquid soap and paper towels or a hand dryer, you can infer that the kitchen operations and sanitary practices of the employees are similarly deficient. Also, more often than not, the kitchen and waitstaff utilize the same bathroom. Take a second to pause and think about that. If the people who handle your food cannot properly wash their hands after using the toilet, it’s time to choose another restaurant!

They did what to my ice?

Most people do not give much thought to the ice in their drink, but ice is a food and it can transmit disease, so it must be handled properly. Ice is considered a ready to serve food that cannot be touched with bare hands because you do not heat ice to a temperature that will kill pathogens before you serve it. Countless times throughout my career, I have personally witnessed food service staff drag a glass through an ice bin with their bare hands. This is a critical violation because this action inoculates the rest of the ice in the bin with whatever germs happen to be on their hands. Many germs will survive quite well on ice including both bacteria and viruses. So keep a sharp eye out when you are ordering a drink to make sure your server uses an ice scoop to fill your glass. 

Article written by Peter DeLucia, MPA
Food safety expertAssistant Commissioner, Bureau of Public Health Protection Westchester County Department of Health