Filth in Food: We might as well drink out of the toilet.


Let me state at the outset:

I am not a germaphobe.
I don’t have food rituals, issues, or obsessions. I use the silverware set out for me, I let different foods touch on my plate, and I am well-acquainted with the 5-second rule.
What I do have is a healthy respect for bacteria and a reasonable gross-out threshold.

Every once in a while a bit of news is reported that makes me want to take a bath in hand sanitizer.
You know the kind of news I’m talking about. Reports like when the the FDA increased allowable levels of filth in food (currently it’s 30 insect fragments plus 1 rodent hair per 100 grams, or about 4 spoons’ full of peanut butter), or when a middle school student’s science project proved that the ice in fast food restaurant soda machines is dirtier that toilet water.

Take a deep breath, maybe gargle some mouthwash, and let’s look at some tales from the annals of yucky, germy, disgusting things you probably put in your mouth.


Fountains of filth.

When was the last time you saw someone sanitizing a drinking fountain? You see busy custodians and posted cleaning schedules in public restrooms, but the fountain? You truly are safer drinking out of the toilet.

Germs on wheels.

Did you ever notice that most supermarkets have a dispenser of antibacterial wipes right by the shopping carts? I suggest you make use of them. Drippy packages of raw chicken,  teething babies drooling on the handles; this is where you put your food?! If that doesn’t get you, how about the recent University of Arizona study that found two-thirds of the shopping carts tested were contaminated with fecal bacteria.

I’ll have a burger with a side order of Influenza Type A, please.

Did you ever consider how many hands a menu has passed through? A recent study in the Journal of Medical Virology reports that cold and flu viruses can survive for 18 hours on the surface. And the next time chips and salsa are served, take notice of how many people lick the salt off their fingers as they ponder the entrée selections.

Bacterial garnish.

Lemon juice does kill germs, but what about the germs on the lemon itself? A 2007 study in the Journal of Environmental Health found disease-causing microbes on two-thirds of the restaurant lemon wedges in its study. With 25 different micro-organisms, including E coli and other fecal bacteria, you would need to dunk the fruit in bleach, not lemon juice, to kill it all.

I’d pass on the free refill.

ABC News published an eye-catching headline earlier this year: Soda Fountains Squirt Fecal Bacteria. Yeah, that pretty much covers it. It cited a study published in the International Journal of Food Microbiology that found coliform bacteria, which is typically fecal in origin, in 48% of the sodas dispensed in fast food restaurants. The self-serve dispensers weren’t much worse than the ones behind the counter. Is that good news?

Why don’t you just put your hand in a cesspool?

The pawed-over peanuts on the bar, the bowl of pretzels at a Superbowl party, free samples at the market…
Haven’t you learned anything?


It’s estimated that each of us eats 2 pounds of insect fragments, rodent hair, and excrement per year. Find out which foods are the culprits. The FDA Defects Level Handbook defines the allowable levels of filth in common food items.

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10 Responses to Filth in Food: We might as well drink out of the toilet.

  1. Janice says:

    So true! And how often does someone handle your food AND take your money?!

  2. jeff @ pgs says:

    I don’t think anybody mentioned about the money 🙂 What about the germs on the money everybody uses everyday!

  3. Great tips,thanks for the post.

  4. What you don’t know, won’t kill you. We are really better off not thinking of these things. I don’t want anyone to think that I think this stuff is ok and that I don’t think cleaning and being sanitary is important. But if you are not exposed to germs, you cannot build up immunities. Nasty is just nasty and the 5 second rule only applies for me if the floor was cleaned very recently and definitely does not apply in a public place. If I thought about all the things that are yucky and gross on a daily basis, I would be neurotic because it is constant. If this stuff effected us we would all be sick or dead. And don’t get me started on what is under peoples fingernails, I would rather just not think about. I would rather touch a few dirty things rather tha anti-bacterialize the world and create super human germs that cannot be treated.

    Great Blog.

  5. eastlandgrl says:

    interesting, thanks

  6. This makes me nervous. I am not a germophone either and I do use the wipes on grocery store carts but this list makes me a bit weary. Leave it to you to make it pretty entertaining though!

  7. Susi says:

    I’m so disgusted right about now LOL I knew of a few of those germ pools mentioned above and always ask for no lemon in my drinks and always use the wipes to clean the shopping carts as much as possible, but I guess there is so much more nastiness out there.

  8. Janice says:

    Those supermarket samples can be iffy,especially when you can’t tell the fresh toothpicks from the used ones. But I like the system at Trader Joe’s, where you get your own little plate and your own little fork.

  9. Monet says:

    My oh my…we were going to go out to eat tonight…but now I’m not so sure! Its amazing to think all of the germs we ingest every single day. I guess we do all right most of the time, but it still makes me a bit squeamish! Thank you for sharing…I feel much more informed!

  10. That is so nasty! But the free food samples at the grocery store? Say it ain’t so!

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