Here's How to Protect Yourself at the Buffet

Don’t you just love a buffet? But how safe are all-you-can-eat restaurants? Every year, 76 million Americans get a food-borne illness – either from a restaurant or from home-cooked food. So, here’s how to protect yourself at the buffet. These facts come from AOL Diet and Fitness:

  • Watch out for “finger food” – basically, food that’s been contaminated by the customers. For example, the person who sneezed on their hands and rummaged through the rolls barehanded instead of using the tongs. Or the kid who poked a snotty finger into the tuna salad. If you see something like that, ask the staff to remove the food.
  • Pay attention to cleanliness. Food sciences professor, Dr. Robert Gravani, says these are the questions to ask yourself: Are buffet areas, floors, tabletops and bathrooms clean? Do employees look neat? Do they wear gloves while handling food? Does the restaurant smell good? If you answered ‘no’ to any of those questions, you should eat elsewhere.
  • Look for warning signs that the food is being neglected and left out too long – like dried-out pork or wilted salad. And make note: employees should be swapping out containers, not dumping new food into partially-filled pans. It cuts way down on bacterial growth.
  • Pass up the foods most likely to make you sick. Like raw or undercooked meat, poultry or shellfish. Raw or runny eggs. Alfalfa sprouts. And mayo-laced items, like macaroni salad.
  • Finally, make sure hot food is hot, and cold food is cold. At the steam table, stir the food and scoop from the bottom, where temperatures are hottest and bacteria is less likely. And if bowls of cold food are on ice, make sure ice surrounds the sides of the bowl and doesn’t just touch the bottom. If the food on top isn’t cold to the touch, it’s growing bacteria. Consider yourself warned!

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