By: Pooja Sharma

President Donald Trump has proven himself right for at least one thing – fast food locations are less likely to have bacteria than fine dining restaurants, according to a new report. Samples were collected at 3 fast food joints and 3 fine dining establishments. The results found that upscale locations were more likely to be a host of germs. The average bacteria colony of a fast food location was a little over 20,000. On the other hand, the average colony of 3 fine dining establishments was more than 2.7 million.

Even though the small amount of samples do not necessarily imply the studies to a larger scale and give a broader result, there are reasons to believe this conclusion. One of the foremost among them is most of the fast food chains get food delivered frozen. It is then, reheated or fried before serving. This process does not involve as much handling of raw food or even prepared food as is required in high end restaurants. So, there is less opportunity for bacteria to spread.

A fast food restaurant also has regular inspections, a strict daily schedule and rigorous corporate standards, which ensures that their food is germ-free, equipment is clean and the restaurant complies with food safety standards.

Most of the dangers happen when employees are handling raw food, uncooked vegetables or even prepared food. Here are some ways how:

  1. Not separating raw food from cooked food. This can happen in your home as well. It is quite important that juices from raw meat, poultry or seafood do not mix in with fresh cooked food or even fruits and vegetables. Since, fruits and vegetables are served raw in the form of salad, their contamination could really cost a lot. Similarly, when raw juices that are infected with diseases like E. coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter, etc. come in contact with freshly cooked food, it can multiply easily at room temperature. This can infect someone who eats it.
    Also, it is quite important that you never rinse meat and eggs in a sink that is used for vegetable prep. Even if you use a sink for rinsing off meat, then make sure you clean it properly using a disinfectant after you are done. You should also make sure to not use the same knife, cutting board etc. for raw meat and cooked meat or vegetables.
  2. Keeping the food in the danger zone. The danger zone is temperature between 41 and 135 degrees Fahrenheit. It is important to keep the food out of this zone. Also, a pretty good reason why it is advised to stay away from buffet and salad bars. Improper handling of food includes not holding the food at a proper temperature. All the pathogens have a tendency to grow at room temperature. It is important to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold to prevent any spread of pathogens.
    Do not thaw or marinate the food at room temperature too. You should thaw the meat, seafood and poultry in their original packaging by keeping in the refrigerator, placing it in cold water or microwaving it. When you are marinating, keep the food in a sealed container.
  3. Not choosing suppliers wisely. Select a food supplier that has undergone audit and has a strong reputation. Search around for a reliable supplier, get referrals and once you finalize on someone, build a good relationship with them. Communicate your concerns and needs on a daily basis. Also, make sure that the supplier is consistently working on delivering high quality.
    Since, most fast food chains are stuck on a supplier, they are able to maintain food safety standards in a better way.
  4. Working when sick. Norovirus outbreaks are highly contagious. So if you are suffering from food poisoning and the cause is Norovirus, please stay away from the fresh food as they can easily get infected.
    Not washing hands after using restroom can also start an outbreak. People who do this are very guilty of spreading infection. Oral fecal route is the way of transmission for a variety of diseases like Hepatitis A, E.coli, Shigella, Campylobacter, Salmonella, etc.
  5. Not following proper sanitization procedures. All the workers should be trained to wash their hands properly after handling raw food, going to the washroom etc. Keep handwashing stations everywhere so the employees never compromise on their hygiene. Print out safety standards and stick it around so the workers are reminded from time to time to follow these guidelines.

Germs are not visible to the naked eye, which naturally leaves us to our intuition to figure out what is right for us. And who would doubt that a fine dining fancy restaurant would easily surpass our 24 hour fast food joint in terms of food safety. But, something even more shocking is your home kitchen might be way dirtier. The three comparisons that were done was between the fast food places – a chicken restaurant, taco place and a burger joint and the high end side represented by – a sushi restaurant, steakhouse and an Italian eatery.

It was found that the fast food chicken restaurant had 300 bacterial colonies while the high end Italian place had 3,700,000 bacteria colonies. And shockingly one of the home kitchens had a staggering 9,040,000 colonies of bacteria. The money that we spend at home goes for far more germs than the money that we spend for fast food does. There are 207,143 bacterial colonies per dollar spent at home compared to 948 bacterial colonies per dollar spent at fast food restaurants.

The most colonies found in the fast food category was 59,380 at the burger spot. Most of the germs were found mostly in the bathroom as opposed to bacteria being spread equally among the condiments, bathroom, and water sources at the higher spectrum of the food joints.

Sources: