Don’t freak out, but every time you eat at a restaurant there’s a chance that you’ll go home with more than a full belly. Every day, restaurants are shut down all across the country for putting their diners at risk, and nearly every day people end up in the hospital from eating contaminated food.
The most recent reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that there are about 500 restaurant-related foodborne illness outbreaks yearly, leading to thousands of people getting sick. And while sometimes there’s no way to tell whether that tomato in your salad has been washed properly, there are some common-sense ways to at least limit your chances of getting sick. First, before you check out a new restaurant, check out its grade from your city’s department of health, which should be available online (if it's not posted in their window). If it’s anything but an "A," be careful. When you get there, take a look around. Does the entire restaurant look clean? Is there soap in the restroom? Finally, when you order, opt for cooked foods instead of raw vegetables, and make sure that eggs and meat are cooked thoroughly.
At the end of the day, though, foodborne illnesses originating at restaurants are the exception, not the norm. The odds of getting sick due to dining out are incredibly slim. Part of the reason why foodborne illnesses become such major news when they break out is the fact that lots and lots of people are often affected at the same time. So if you eat at a restaurant and start feeling ill, odds are that the illness isn’t connected to the restaurant unless plenty of others are coming forward. And keep in mind that symptoms can take between two and 72 hours to manifest, so it’s not always easy to track down the source of the illness.
The threat of foodborne illness originating in restaurants is far from non-existent, however. In 1992 the worst E. coli outbreak to date occurred at Jack-in-the-Box restaurants across four states; more than 700 diners were infected due to contaminated hamburgers. In 1993, a deli customer was killed via botulism after being served cheese sauce that had been left sitting out for eight days. In 1995, more than 850 people contracted salmonella after dining at a restaurant that had used the same cutting board for raw chicken and raw vegetables. And in 2003, green onions at Chi-Chi’s caused the largest hepatitis A outbreak in American history, sickening 660 and killing at least four.
Obviously, foodborne illness is nothing to sneeze at. So we’ve assembled a list of seven ways in which restaurants can make you sick. Click here for The 7 Ways That a Restaurant Can Make You Sick Slideshow.