Guide To Restaurant Health Concerns and Safety

Going out to a restaurant can be one of the highlight of the week, allowing consumers to try foods they might not be able to prepare themselves, experiment with new cuisines, or just enjoy the company of family or friends over a nice meal. There is an added responsibility, however, on the part of the restaurant patron; the responsibility to prepare the food safely and inform the consumer regarding the nutrition information of their dish. Without this knowledge, ordering a salad in an effort to be “heart healthy” could do exactly the opposite; with the addition of unhealthy dressing and toppings, the nutritional value of the once healthy salad decreases. Consumers may also choose to research restaurant food storage, preparation, and food safety practices. Without this knowledge, there exists the potential for the breeding of foodborne diseases, which can easily be passed on to patrons.

 

Foodborne Diseases

A foodborne disease is one which is contracted from eating contaminated food and is, in most cases, entirely preventable. As many as 48 million people get sick every year from foodborne illnesses, with up to 3,000 deaths occurring annually. It is important to know that the symptoms of having contracted a foodborne illness are flu-like and can happen minutes or even weeks after the food has been ingested. A foodborne illness is something to be taken seriously, both to ensure the best treatment possible is given in a timely manner and to learn from whatever mistakes may have been made during preparation, whether these mistakes were made in the kitchen or at the source of the food. It is also important to know the common foodborne illnesses because being informed is often the best way to reduce the chances of getting sick.

 

Salmonella

While a diagnosis of Salmonella might include any of the over 2,300 serotypes of bacteria, the diagnosis is at least half the time referring to Salmonella Enteritidis or Salmonella Typhimurium. This disease can be present in food without affecting the appearance, smell or taste of the food. Symptoms of Salmonella range from diarrhea, fever, and cramps, though most people will recover within 8 to 72 hours, even without a doctor’s intervention. This does not mean that a doctor should not be involved, as Salmonella can be life threatening especially to young children and the elderly.

 

E. coli

This foodborne disease is often contracted by people who have consumed food or water which has contaminated by microscopic traces of cow feces. One of the most common and severe instances of foodborne illness, complications of which can cause severe bleeding and kidney failure, can be prevented, like most foodborne diseases, by properly cooking and handling food.

 

Campylobacter

Usually the result of eating undercooked chicken, Campylobacter is the most common bacterial cause of diarrheal illness. In addition to being caused by eating undercooked chicken, it can also be spread by any raw juices dripping from the chicken onto other food, and can be left behind by raw chicken when it is moved. For this reason, proper cooking and handling of raw chicken is vitally important to maintaining a person’s health.

 

Mandatory Restaurant Health Inspection

One way the government ensures the safety of restaurant patrons is by county agencies conducting mandatory health inspections. Usually, the health inspection is conducted by local health inspectors, who report on the degree to which a restaurant has complied with FDA regulations. Among other standards, a restaurant health inspector will inspect how a restaurant stores, handles, and prepares food, ensuring the safety of the people eating there, as well as the safety of the employees.

 

Nutritional Information on Each Dish

Staying healthy while eating out is not simply a matter of only eating at restaurants that have been deemed safe by a health inspector; while this may keep the patrons from getting physically ill as a result of the food, the onus also falls on the patron to make certain he or she is aware of the nutritional facts of the food they are eating. While there are regulations put in place to ensure that this information is made available to consumers, there are many ways a restaurant may mislead patrons regarding what their healthiest menu items are. The only rules a restaurant must follow when claiming a meal is “low fat” is that the standard serving size (as determined by the FDA) contains less than three grams of fat. Most restaurants, however, serve more than the standard serving size, so while the menu might say something is “healthy”, what the consumer is given may be more than a single serving size. 

 

A restaurant, like any business, must market its goods. Therefore, they may suggest a salad as a healthy way to start the meal. Patrons should make sure to ask what exactly comes on a salad, as these can be, depending on the ingredients and the dressing, some of the unhealthiest options on the menu. If the nutritional information is not available in another way, it is best to ask the wait staff what the nutritional information of a dish is. This information, while not required to be displayed on the menu, is required upon request, thought there is no guarantee the information the patron receives is entirely accurate.

 

Healthiest Chain Restaurants in the Country

Eating healthy takes forethought and preparation, but sometimes it is simply easier and more convenient to eat at a restaurant. With that in mind, customers should be aware of the restaurants in America with the healthiest options. Below is a list of casual dining restaurants with the greatest amount of healthy choices on their menus as determined by Health.com.

  • Uno Chicago Grill
  • Souplantation & Sweet Tomatoes
  • Mimi’s Café
  • P.F. Chang’s Chinese Bistro
  • Bob Evans
  • Ruby Tuesday
  • Romano’s Macaroni Grill
  • Checy’s Fresh Mex
  • Olive Garden
  • Denny’s

 

Further Information