We know that germs can often be found on door knobs and microwave handles, phone buttons and receivers, computer keyboards and mice, but we often don’t think about how germs can also settle on other everyday items. When we go out to eat, we’re very aware if our server sneezes over our food or coughs without covering their mouth. We’re also aware of watermarks on our utensils, or food bits stuck to our table when we sit. However, we’ve never really given a lot of thought to the menu.
Think about it. Restaurant menus are handled by lots of people daily. Lots of them may be laminated, but how many of them are actually washed? If you’re a germaphobe, this may be ringing alarm bells in your head. Along with seldom-washed booth seats and stools, ketchup bottles, and lemon slices (yes, lemon slices!), the restaurant menu can contain thousands of germs.
How much? According to a study, a restaurant menu can contain 185,000 germs per square centimeter. For reference, a public toilet has about 500-1,000 germs per square centimeter. That’s a big difference. We often think of public toilet seats as being incredibly dirty, but compared to many things, they’re actually much, much cleaner.
The solution? Make sure to wash or sanitize your hands after touching the menu, before you eat your food — especially if it’s finger food. Don’t leave your health up to the cleaning crew at the restaurant. Be wary of items that are frequently handled by other hands throughout the day, and be aware of when you should wash your hands, especially around flu season.