One of my favorite memories as a kid was sitting down to home cooked food by my mom or grandma after a long day at school or playing outside. Flash forward about a decade and as close as I get to cooking is microwaving a frozen pizza. My diet, like many people in their 20s, has a hell of a lot of fast food and take out. But maybe there's a reason to skip dining out besides the high price and calorie count.
According to the Des Moines Register, a study by the Center for Science in the Public Interest found people are about twice as likely to get a food-borne illness from eating outside of the home as they are inside it. The study spanned a decade's worth of data, citing that 28,000 people were sickened by restaurant food compared to 13,000 cases from home cooked food. It's likely that more cases went unreported due to poor record keeping by public officials, but still, that sample is large enough to draw some conclusions.
Restaurants may be focusing too much on things that are far less important than food safety, like décor and the taste of the food. Sara Kline, an official with CSPI, thinks social pressure from websites like Yelp causes them to ignore things that the consumer doesn't see in an effort to keep their positive image. She has been pushing for restaurants to be graded on food safety and have the grade posted on the front door so consumers can make informed choices. While a few states have already adopted this, the vast majority do not and that means you could be dining at a restaurant with spectacular décor and horrendous safety.
People on the other side of the table say that restaurant workers have been trained better than ever in food safety techniques. Joan McGlockton is the Vice President of industry affairs and food policy for the National Restaurant Association. She reiterates that new food safety rules have been put in place to help reduce the number of safety violations and hopefully reduce the number of people who get sick from eating restaurant food. She maintains that food safety is the number one priority of the restaurant industry.
Food-borne illnesses are nothing new and it seems in recent years there has been a rash of outbreaks and recalls . There have also been several documentaries made and books written on food safety that have given the general public a better idea of what they're eating and where it comes from, too. With improved safety regulations for both food we eat at home and at restaurants, hopefully the number of people getting sick from food will start to decline.
So next time you're deciding between grabbing some food to take out or make at home, you might want to consider all your options. At home, you can clean all your food and cook it thoroughly under your own watch, but something is definitely satisfying about a hot and tasty burger someone else made for you when you're feeling lazy. I don't think I'll quit going to restaurants, but I definitely will be paying a lot more attention to the spaces where I'm eating and how clean everything looks. Or doesn't look.