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Have you ever walked into a restaurant and wondered whether it was safe to eat at or not? While most restaurants are inspected regularly by the local health department and many have a certified food manager on staff, even some of the best restaurants are capable of committing mistakes that can lead to food borne illness. If you find yourself at an unfamiliar restaurant or just want to be extra careful, the following tips may help you stay healthy when eating out.
General Safety Tips
- When first entering a restaurant, look around before you sit down. If the dining area or restroom is not up to your cleanliness standards, chances are the kitchen will not be either.
- Only eat foods that are served to you very hot. If the food is lukewarm, it could have been standing at room temperature for some time, which could have lead to the growth of food borne bacteria.
- Watch to make sure neither the cook nor the waitstaff touches cooked food with their bare hands.
- Make sure the waitstaff does not touch the tips of your silverware with their bare hands.
- Ask for drinks directly out of the can or bottle and open them yourself.
- Don't eat meat, eggs or other raw foods that are undercooked (avoid runny egg yolks).
- Don't forget to wash your own hands properly before and after eating.
Handling Leftovers Safely
- Leave leftovers at the restaurant if you won't be able to refrigerate or freeze them within two hours from the time they were first served. If you know you aren't going home right away after dinner, consider eating defensively and divide larger entrees or appetizers with other diners at your table.
- If you do take leftovers home, place them in the refrigerator immediately. If you won't be eating them within one to two days, put them in the freezer. Frozen leftovers can be thawed in the refrigerator, as part of the cooking process, or in the microwave. If thawed in the microwave, finish cooking the food right away. Always reheat leftovers to at least 165 degrees F.