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Surprisingly, the dirtiest items in a restaurant are not in the bathroom, It’s right on the table in front of you: Pepper shakers are the dirtiest item at restaurants and are contaminated with E. coli bacteria.

According to a study by ABC News, pepper shakers at 12 different restaurants in New York, Arizona and Ohio had an average bacteria count of 11,600. An even more disgusting finding was that the restaurant's menus carried an average bacteria count of 185,000.

E. coli bacteria

The main problem seems to be the lack of proper cleaning at many restaurants.

 

"Most pepper shakers are only wiped down if they appear dirty, and even then, only with a damp cloth," Jonas Sickler, director of operations at ConsumerSafety.org, told Reader’s Digest.

"While some restaurants collect, refill, and wipe down shakers, they are rarely properly emptied and sanitized," he added.

Sickler points out the fact that many parents let their kids play with the peppershakers in order to keep them occupied and urges them to stop.

"This means they will be covered in drool, and whatever else that is on the toddler’s fingers, which will help germs adhere to the glass surfaces even better," Sickler added.

How to avoid E. coli bacteria

Germs and E. coli bacteria are hard to get rid of but there are different ways to avoid them.  

Always make sure to wash both your hands before eating your food and keep an eye on your toddler so they don't put any items from the restaurant table in their mouth. 

Instead of using the pepper shakers, especially during flu season, Sickler suggests asking the chef to add extra spice to the food. He also suggests bringing your own spices to the restaurants, but that may be a bit "over the top," according to Sickler. 

Based on the findings of the research, restaurants should be more aware of the number of bacteria swirling around on their tables. 

Until then, be extra careful with peppering your food when eating out.

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