Yuck is right.
Salad tongs. Door knobs. Booster seats. As a restaurant-goer, you may have heard that these common items can be hotbeds for bacteria. But here’s a more surprising one hanging out right on your table: Condiments.
Salt and pepper shakers, ketchup and mustard bottles, olive oil and vinegar, the list goes on and on, and they all likely haven’t been sanitized in ages. That bottle of hot sauce you request to tap over your eggs benny? Ditto, ladies and gents. Don’t even get us started on the sticky maple syrup jar, covered in a hardened swirl of edible glue.
Of course, it’s unrealistic to never use any condiments when dining out, and some flavorings are worse than others. Take the top of the pepper shaker or grinder, for instance. "E. coli loves to grow there," Dr. Charles Gerba, University of Arizona microbiologist tells TODAY. "It’s a plant-based product. Maybe that has something to do with it."
Having worked in a restaurant kitchen, I can tell you some things do, in fact, get washed regularly (oil and vinegar dispensers, I’m looking at you!). But others, not so much. Even if they do, nothing is stopping a toddler from turning the salt shaker into their lunchtime playtoy and contaminating it. Your best bet? Bring along sanitizing wipes to use after you touch these common tableside culprits. Or be that crazy person who stashes salt and pepper packets and tear-away ketchup pouches in your purse. Hey, it beats getting sick from E. coli contamination.
For more information on common spots germs lurk and how to deal, check out our guide to the most germ-ridden things you touch every day.