I was reading a pediatric journal the other day and discovered yet another reason not to go out to eat. It’s bad enough that restaurants create portion sizes that are gigantic, serve unlimited portions of sugary drinks that are practically poured down your throat by the waitress, heap fried potatoes as part of almost every meal, and rarely offer healthy selections; now we have to worry about the microbes that the last guest left on ‘your’ silverware and plate.
Researchers at Ohio State University did microbial colony counts on silverware and plates after they first contaminated the dishes with upset stomach microbes and then cleaned them with the standard cleansing agents that are used in restaurants. They found that even though bacteria like E. Coli were effectively removed by this washing procedure, viruses that cause diarrhea (i.e. Norovirus) were not very well removed. One can easily see how one could get a severe gastroenteritis after eating from these plates and silverware. Looks like the food scientists are going to need to go back to the “cleaning” drawing board and rethink the whole dishwashing process over again. Standard cleansers like sodium hypochlorite and quaternary ammonium solutions that are in current use just aren’t a match for the Norovirus, which causes at least 50% of food borne diarrhea outbreaks.
The people who run cruise ships probably had no idea how tough the Norovirus would be to eliminate. Not only do they need to worry about all the passenger’s and staff’s hands plus the contaminated surfaces all over the ship, but now even ‘clean’ dishes seem to be their enemy. Maybe this new information will help make both cruising and eating out a safer affair for everyone. Let’s hope so.
Your comments are welcome on my blog, www.docsmo.com. Until next time.
Shane, Andi, Infectious diseases in Children, January 2013, pg 19