By: Pooja Sharma

As strange as it sounds, but some foods at your buffet can hold the risk of food poisoning. Buffet meals always sound interesting and rewarding because who doesn’t love variety? But, before you get ready to gorge on the delicious food items, here are some don’ts that you should avoid at all costs.

#1 Fettuccine Alfredo

Fettuccine alfredo is full of saturated fat in the form of cheese, butter, cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, etc. that can damage your heart muscles and increase cholesterol levels. It also contains a lot of dairy and even though, the chances of any of these dairy products used of being unpasteurized are rare, you cannot turn a blind eye towards them. Some variations of fettuccine alfredo also include: adding chicken or some other kind of meat to them. So, make sure that everything is properly cooked. Ask questions if you have doubt. Choose red sauce over white sauce pasta as it, at least, eliminates the risk of illness due to dairy products.

#2 Caesar Salad

The dressing that goes into Caesar salad is made of only lightly cooked eggs. If those eggs are not pasteurized, they seriously risk spreading Salmonella. According to a report released in 2005 by US Department of Agriculture, 1 in 20,000 eggs risk Salmonella. Salmonella is responsible for 1 million foodborne illnesses in US each year. At a buffet, choose a different kind of salad or, at least a different kind of dressing. You should completely avoid it if you are pregnant because not only can pregnant women have higher chances of contracting the illness, they are also more prone to the side effects of the Salmonella.

#3 Rice or rice related foods

Rice related food borne illness called Bacillus Cereus is responsible for 2% of all the food borne illnesses that occur in US. Rice, when not handled properly can seriously risk the contamination of food and result in an outbreak. Boiled or fried rice should not be stored under warm conditions. Rice after cooking should either be kept hot (>63℃) or cooled quickly. It should be kept in refrigerator after 2 hours of cooking. Most buffets keep the rice at room temperature until it is served, which is wrong. Bacillus Cereus spores can very easily germinate and multiply after cooking.

#4 Sprouts

Raw sprouts can easily risk a lot of food related infections. Since 1996, a total of 30 food illness related outbreak has been linked to sprouts. Sprouts needs humid and dark conditions to germinate and grow. These conditions are also ideal for bacteria to multiply and grow. A variety of bacteria like Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria are related to food borne illnesses. No particular treatment is yet guaranteed on how to protect raw sprouts from such bacterial growth. Cooked sprouts are generally free from such bacteria. Home grown sprouts carry the same risk as sprouts grown at restaurants or other commercial purposes.

#5 Quiche and Soufflé

FDA seriously advises to properly handle quiche and soufflé while they are in the process of cooking, and while in the process of getting served. These dishes are made of eggs, which are linked to illness when not handled properly. Both of them needs to be refrigerated before they are cooked. But, they also need to get thoroughly heated (165 degrees to be precise) before they are ready to eat.  If you are confident enough that the buffet you are at does it, then go ahead and enjoy.

#6 Homemade Ice Cream

Homemade ice cream is made of raw eggs and might not be cooked with proper temperature. So, it is better that you avoid it.

Even soft serve ice cream is not a good option. This magic machine uses all kinds of funky ingredients that are compromised with quality to make the ice cream. In fact, there was one case in which 3 people with compromised immune system suffered from Listeria infections because one soft serve ice cream machine was contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes over year after Listeria contaminated ice cream was put into it.

#7 Sushi

It is advised that sushi should always be eaten at reputable restaurants that have a high turnover rate. Everything that goes into a sushi risks health infection. From fish to rice, everything can be quite detrimental to your health if not cooked properly. Undercooked fish can lead to illnesses such as Vibriosis, Diphyllobothriasis, Anisakiasis, etc. Cooked sushi should not be held at room temperature. It should be stored at refrigerated temperature. Rice in Sushi can also risk illness as mentioned in point #3. Pregnant women, children, elderly people, and those with compromised immune system should completely stay away from sushi at buffets.

#8 Uncooked food

All uncooked food, especially meat and seafood, should be completely avoided. Some kind of seafood, like Tuna and Mackerel, can risk serious food illnesses if not stored properly. Tuna is susceptible to scombrotoxin. Hygiene and handling fish’s cooking and holding temperature can seriously risk the growth of this bacteria. Scombrotoxin is an illness that does not always cause vomiting and diarrhea. Its most common symptoms are oral burning, skin inflammation, skin rashes, headaches, flushing, etc.

#9 Salad Dressings and Sauces  

Salad dressings might seem as completely innocuous to you. But, sadly they are full of harmful additives, sodium, and sugar. They are full of harmful fats too. The FDA has, however, steered them clear of most of the food borne illness like Escherichia Coli, Salmonella, Staphylococcus Aureus, etc. owing to the pH environment they are kept in during preservation process.
All commercial dressings are unhealthy and an unnecessary addition to the calories. If you are really keen on using dressing for your healthy meal, do a research on the nutritional values. Or best is to drizzle your salad with some olive oil, salt, pepper and some other few spices. Homemade dressings are the only way to ensure that your salad dressing is not a diet-killer and is safe and healthy.

#10 Fried foods or vegetables

Any fried foods especially deep fried ones are not good for you because they are packed with oil, calories, and other sources that can damage free radicals in your body. You would especially crave this junk if you are starving, so go ahead and fill up on something healthy and then come back to the ‘fried’ counter. These foods are also very susceptible to Staph, as they are often left out for long periods.