- There are nearly 48 million cases of foodborne illnesses in the US annually.
- We asked experts what to avoid ordering.
- Choose pasteurised food and juices over unpasteurized when possible.
- Proceed with caution, or not at all, when ordering certain foods “raw.”
- Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.
Americans love to dine out. In fact, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that on any given day from 2013-2016, 36.6% of adults in the US consumed fast food. But between leaving out leftovers too long and not knowing how food is prepared, it’s no wonder that millions of people end up with food poisoning each year.
While food poisoning can occur anywhere, you have less control over food handling and preparation when dining out than you do eating at home. That’s why being selective of the foods you order may help you steer clear of foodborne illnesses like salmonella, listeria, noroviruses, and E. Coli.
To help you get a better idea of what foods tend to be repeat offenders, INSIDER asked a few experts to share the things you should never order in a restaurant if you want to avoid food poisoning.
Fresh-squeezed juices are not pasteurised.
While those brightly coloured fresh-squeezed juices may look delicious and packed full of nutrients, food poisoning lawyer, Jory D. Lange told INSIDER that unpasteurized juice can be risky. “Several outbreaks of E. coli and Campylobacter have been linked to unpasteurized juices, so it is a good idea to skip it at restaurants,” he said.
Unpasteurized cheese can be risky too.
Oh, how we love our cheeses. Unfortunately, said Lange, raw milk cheeses, like some soft cheeses, have similar risks to that of unpasteurized juices. But not to worry, because many restaurants carry pasteurised varieties. When in doubt, just ask.
Raw flour products can come with risks.
If you have kids, this one’s for you. “Many pizza parlors allow kids to play with raw pizza dough or to make their own pizza, and this is a very risky practice; especially as raw flour products were linked to a concerning E. coli outbreak last year,” explained Lange.
While many think that the risk of raw dough is the eggs, it can actually be the flour, and inviting kids to sneak a bite of raw dough can be risky. The bottom line is this: let your kids watch the dough flying in the air, as long as it is handled by someone else.
Raw oysters may not be the safest bet.
Raw oysters may be tasty, but they can come with a risk.
“These mollusks are carriers of three scary foodborne illnesses – norovirus, Shigella, and Vibrio (flesh-eating bacteria),” explained Lange. He said they see a rise in cases during the summer months, as Vibrio loves warm waters. His advice? If oysters have been cooked, they are a-OK to eat but exercise caution when eating them raw.
Buffet food can be left unmonitored.
All-you-can-eat buffets may cost less at the cash register, but what you bring home may end up costing you a lot. That’s because any food that gets left out too long can harbour unsafe bacteria, like Staphylococcus aureus or Bacillus. Lange recommends looking for buffets that have food warmers and change food out once an hour or so.
Though it can be tough to know for sure how much care your buffet food is getting, a little research can go a long way.
Ice cubes are a sneaky culprit.
If you travel often you know that it might serve you well to steer clear of ordering cocktails on the rocks when travelling to other countries.
“Tourists will order cocktails on the rocks thinking that they are safe because they aren’t drinking water, but end up with illness from the ice cubes,” said Lange.
But a lot of ice in restaurants in the US has been shown to harbour some bacteria, too. If you want to play it safe, you can avoid ordering your drink with ice or, as Discover suggested, order a cocktail that can kill the bacteria in the ice.
Raw sprouts are delicious but commonly cause illness.
This one is so hard, explained Lange, because raw sprouts are common and delicious. “Unfortunately, these little saplings are the cause of over 30 outbreaks since 1990, and there is no way to guarantee their safety – unless you cook them,” he said.
“Raw sprouts grow in warm, damp environments, which are the same conditions that E.coli and Salmonella flourish,” explained registered dietitian Becky Kerkenbush, MS, RD-AP, CSG, CD, FAND-State media representative to the Wisconsin Academy of Nutrition and Dietetic. Plus, sprouts are often served raw or lightly cooked, which also increases the risk of illness.
Sorry, but unless they’re cooked, it’s best to leave them off.
Raw or undercooked eggs aren’t always safe either.
If you like your eggs a little on the undercooked side, you might want to consider a new way to order up your morning protein. By eating raw or undercooked eggs, you may be putting yourself at risk for salmonella.
Plus, Kerkenbush said the eggshells can also cause problems, so make sure to keep those shells away from your cooked eggs. It’s also not a bad idea to stick to pasteurised eggs, when possible.