Food & Nutrition

Here’s the Dirtiest Thing on Restaurant Tables

Guess what not to touch next time you eat out?

Casual Dining PlaceDawn Damico/Shutterstock

You know the kitchen at home is clean, but what about the tables you eat at when dining out? ABC News set out to discover which items on a restaurant table are the dirtiest, and the answers really surprised us.

Here’s what ABC discovered

Researchers from the University of Arizona teamed up with ABC to swab common tabletop items at restaurants for germs, including salt and pepper shakers, ketchup, menus, and sugar.

The findings of the research may surprise you, but they actually make a lot of sense. Here are the worst offenders:

  • Sugar clocked in at the lowest average bacteria count, with 2,300 organisms
  • Ketchup, mustard, and salt all fell generally in the middle
  • Pepper is second-highest on the list, with nearly 11,600 organisms
  • Menus top the list with a whopping 185,000 bacterial organisms

Why are these items so dirty?

If you think about how much menus are handled, between the hostess stand and being looked through at the table, it makes sense. Dr. Chuck Gerba of the University of Arizona explains to ABC, “You probably have about 100 times more bacteria on that menu than you do a typical toilet seat in the restroom.” Gross! Find out the things you shouldn’t eat at a restaurant, too.

How you can protect yourself

Go ahead and touch the menu—but you might want to wash your hands after. Regularly washing your hands is one of the best ways to ward off potentially harmful microorganisms. Next, find out more dirty restaurant secrets you never knew.

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