Health & Fitness

Signs a restaurant meal might give you food poisoning

Food poisoning
Food poisoning doesn't just come from food. It can come from contaminated plates, cups and cutlery. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

As you plan on eating out in 2019, it has been found that food poisoning occurs more in restaurants than at home. It is caused by germs in contaminated food. These bugs are passed on to the food either through poor preparation/handling or from sick restaurant employees.

Dirty toilet = dirty kitchen

Look for subtle things in the toilet which might indicate that an establishment does not value good hygiene. These signs include lack of soap, water or toilet paper in the rest rooms (another subtle sign that hygiene is not a priority is the dilution of soap with water). If a hotel does not have basic hygiene products for its guests, it is unlikely to have them for the staff handling your food.

Visible trash = poor kitchen hygiene

If you go to a restaurant and you notice scattered trash in the compound, it is a sign of the low levels of hygiene in the hotel/restaurant — including its kitchen. Garbage also harbours disease carrying vermin such as flies and roaches which are bound to be drawn to the premise's kitchen. Dirty conditions in the public areas of a hotel or restaurant can be a clue hinting that things may be worse in places like the kitchen where customers don’t have access to.


Dirty utensils can give food poisoning

Food poisoning doesn't just come from food. It can come from contaminated plates, cups and cutlery. Take extra precaution when inspecting your utensils —if it looks or smells dirty, insist that it is washed and replaced. (It is particularly common for facilities selling alcohol to opt to rinse glasses with plain water instead of washing them after each use - this bad habit can lead to nasty digestive complications).

Look at the cloth used to wipe your table

If your waiter is using a dirty cloth to wipe your table, it is very likely that the kitchen staff is also using dirty cloths to wipe the surfaces there. It is also very likely that the utensils are also being cleaned with dirty dish cloths as well. These dirty cloths all harbour harmful bacteria that can lead to tummy problems. (Remember, what you see at your table is often a reflection of what is going on in the kitchen).

Ice cubes may be contaminated

Ideally, ice cubes should be made using treated or boiled water. However, most establishments opt to make them from tap water which can sometimes be contaminated. When the ice cube melts as it sits in your drink, it contaminates it leading to tummy problems.

Be careful with raw fruits and vegetables

Raw fruits and veggies are usually good for your digestive system, however, they can be easily contaminated. This occurs if the product is grown with contaminated water (it is not unusual for people to use untreated sewage to grow crops in certain parts of the country) or if it is handled poorly in the kitchen. Bad kitchen habits include using the same preparation area for both meats and vegetables/fruits. If you notice that your favourite nyama choma joint prepares the kachumbari on the same board used to cut raw meat, give the kachumbari a mis— it has a high chance of giving you food poisoning.

Ensure that your meat and seafood is well prepared

Poorly prepared meat and seafood is a major cause of food poisoning. If you find that your meat is not well prepared, insist on it being prepared to acceptable standards. Only eat sushi from busy restaurants with high standards of hygiene (ideally, sushi should be prepared in your presence).

Things to look out for at the buffet table

—Each dish should have its own spoon. —Raw and cooked food should never be handled with the same utensils. —All meals should be covered between servings. —Do not eat luke warm food.

Hot food should be served steaming hot— at 60 °C and above (most modern serving dishes have temperature regulators). —Cold food should be displayed on ice or in a refrigerated setup.

—Meals with perishables such as meat, fish, eggs etc should ideally be kept at the buffet for a maximum of four hours. Whatever, has not been eaten should be replaced to reduce the chances of getting food poisoning.

Try and eat house specials

Most restaurants have certain house specials that are in popular demand. Often, the supplies for these meals are locally produced, fresh and the staff is well acquainted with proper preparation of these foods. All these factors help reduce your chances of getting food poisoning.

Avoid dishes with raw eggs or unpasteurised milk

Dishes with raw eggs or unprocessed milk are a common source of food poisoning and should be avoided— especially in buffet settings.

Properly handle your leftovers

If you take home a doggy bag, ensure that you refrigerate the contents within two hours. You should also try and eat all your leftovers within three days of storage.

Baking tip: Avoid eating cookie or cake dough

Flour is a raw product that has not been treated to kill germs. Dough usually also contains eggs. Both these ingredients can have bugs that can lead to tummy problems.