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Hygiene: fast food places v restaurants


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After seeing the video of rats in KFC (youtube it if you have not done so yet, and don't mind feeling horribly ill), I told a friend that I would never, ever eat fast food again (yes, it is sometimes a guilty pleasure). I always suspected fast food places weren't the cleanest, but irrational or not, that video has put me off for life.

Anyway, my friend commented that they were no likely to be dirtier than 'gourmet' restaurants, where the chefs might touch the food with their hands, and there may be rodent problems and any other array of unhygienic practices also. I know that it's naive to expect every restaurant to be clean and spotless, and eating out means you know that people have touched your food, but I disagree. To me, it seems that a single restaurant has far more to lose in terms of a diner getting ill, failing a health inspection, etc, than the average fast food place, and not only that, but good restaurants have people who know food and therefore know better what is a safe practise in handling and preparing it.

So who is right? Is your average McDonalds as clean as your average good restaurant? I am pretty sure I am right, but my friend is full of restaurant horror stories and is convinced. I'd like to point him to all of your opinions to prove myself!

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My son is a cop in Chicago. His beat used to be Chinatown, just south of downtown.

Sometimes while on patrol, he would go walking around the main drag to stretch his legs and since he worked midnights, there was little activity or traffic.

What he told me about the place was shocking.

Now, granted, Chinatown is very overcrowded with many people and buildings are literally side by side, but...

While walking around (particularly on warm summer nights) he saw a near constant flow of large rats crossing the street and running through the alleyways where garbage was strewn all over the place. He also saw rats and mice eating food left on the line through some of the restaurant windows.

I have no doubt that this same food was to be served the next day.

I doubt this was the case with every restaurant there, but I've never seen an extermination truck in the vicinity.

My son has since moved upward in the PD and these events happened at least 5 years ago. Hopefully Chinatown has cleaned up its trash problem and eliminated the vermin.

Still....I would have a hard time eating there.

Edited by Old Timer (log)
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If my only concern was vermin ie rats, mice, and bugs I would always choose the restaurant in a free standing building, or a building with no other food.

A tenant of any kind can do only so much if an entire strip mall or city block of buldings is infested....the store on the right sprays the second Tuesday of the month, 2 doors down sprays the first Wednesday of everyother month....those not killed instantly just move down the line

From what I know the Board of Health requires some type of spraying schedule for all restaurants, wether it works or not depends on the neighbors.

We had it bad one place I worked....chipmunks. Ok not the worst I had seen but they were annoying


The great thing about barbeque is that when you get hungry 3 hours later....you can lick your fingers


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I think very high end restaurants are likely to be clean. Places like KFC and McDs and other large companies are also likely to be clean as they have many standards and can't afford bad press like yours. Everything in between is a risk. I would say the places I would worry about the most are casual dining inexpensive restaurants. If the dining room seems uncared for, just consider what is likely behind the scenes in an old and run down kitchen.

If you are worried about the chef putting his finger in your food I would suggest never eating out again.

Chef Matt

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We had some discussion of this story when it broke in 2007. I also wrote an op-ed about it, which is cited in the discussion:


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I think it comes down to a pride issue. A restaurant where people work "just to get by", ie fast food and other major chains...these people often don't care. They have no investment in the place. What do they care if there are rats everywhere???? But a place that is owned by somebody who is passionate, or worked a long time to get the place...or a place that is staffed by people that love food, are working through the industry for experience and hope to one day lead a kitchen themselves probably take a lot more pride in what they do.

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