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when you see unhygienic practices...?

Mice and roaches have had some discussion on CH recently but what about obvious unhygienic goings on?

Today, I went to a recently opened deli (in Fl not that it matters) and ordered a bagel with cream cheese from the take-out counter. The server was sweeping the floor when I walked in, saw me, put down her broom, asked for my order, went to the glove boxes and put on a pair of gloves. My first thought was eww she didn't wash her hands first, then she went to the white cutting boards to slice and spread the bagel and I noticed a produce box of parsley on the white cutting board and other workers removing parsley from the box and shaking it out (not rinsing first).

She sliced my bagel as close as she could get to the produce box and I suddenly lost my appetite. For sure that box had been on the floor and or the ground at least once in it's life and there it was sitting on a food prep board, right next to a bagel that I was about to eat, with unwashed parsley bunches being shaken all over the board. I called her and said cancel my order and told her why, she shrugged. I got a restaurant manager and pointed out the situation who was fairly disinterested.

I have done a food managers course but besides that I am a consumer too. Yes I know all kinds of things happen in kitchens (including my own I daresay) but I don't want to SEE bad practices when I am going to eat there.

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  1. What you describe wouldn't even register with me. You're entitled to your own ew-factor, but if you continue down this path you will never eat anything ever again. And that will kill you much quicker than a bagel contaminated with dirty parsley.

    1 Reply
    1. re: small h

      I have to agree. Your experience wouldn't even have triggered the slightest bit of alarm in my mind, nor do I think it should have.

      People are growing more and more "unhygienic" phobic to the point where it's becoming a ridiculous obsession.

    2. What you don't see isn't going to hurt you either.

      1. If she had washed her hands (properly) she wouldn't have NEEDED to wear gloves. And do you believe that rinsing off that parsley was going to remove much in the way of pathogens? Other than that, ditto what others have said.

        1. are you sure the parsley wasn't washed earlier?

          and given that she put on gloves, exactly what was going to pass trough those gloves onto her hands and then your food?

          why am i even getting involved here? nvm

          1. I don't think smartie deserved the snarking.

            You know if you see these types of ultra-casual small offenses, goodness knows what they do when nobody is looking.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Vetter

              Okay, I'm game. What were the "ultra-casual small offenses"? I don't have training as a food manager. A lot of medical and scientific background but nothing as a food manager.

              1. re: c oliver

                I'm not clear on the question. You don't have to be a trained food manager to know you keep not-clean stuff off the counter, wash your hands, rinse the produce, etc, when you're in a place regulated by the health department (not to mention common sense).

                1. re: Vetter

                  What was the "not-clean stuff"? In other words, how would OP know if "not-clean"? Why wash hands if putting on gloves? How did OP know if the produce had been rinsed prior to? Why would rinsing something make it "safe"? As someone wrote above, the stuffs GROWS in dirt. Dirt is, well, dirty but it doesn't mean it's carrying around pathogens.

            2. Last week & took my 3 year old out for lunch at a little lunch counter. The woman fixed our sandwiches & then went outside for a break. A cigarette break. Then she came back inside to fix food for another customer, without washing her hands or putting on gloves.

              I will not give that lunch counter my business ever again.

              29 Replies
                1. re: tall sarah

                  can you explain what was hygienic about that? you emphasize the cigarette so i assume that was the issue, but i do not see how.

                  1. re: thew

                    I should have expanded my question also. If we can go ahead and assume the person had clean hands to begin with, if we can assume that going outdoors didn't expose her to anything much different than what was indoors (door was opening and closing and people were coming and going), removing cigarette and match or lighter doesn't seem to be a possible cause for illness, smoking it might hurt the smoker but if outdoors wouldn't cause secondhand smoke when returning to make the next batch of food. So perhaps tall sarah just prefers not to give her business to any place that hires smokers. But that doesn't seem like a subject for CH or an on-topic response this thread. Maybe she'll reply since OP has gone silent. Inquiring minds want to know.

                    1. re: c oliver

                      I guess we've come a long way from the sterotypical 70s diner, where the short order cook has an unfiltered Lucky Strike hanging out of his mouth threatening to drip ashes onto the grill. What used to be "character" is now a reason to avoid a restaurant forever.

                      That said, I can get where Sarah is coming from - it's the whole hand-to-face thing. Picking a bit of tobacco off your tongue and then going back to work in a restaurant kitchen violates food safety rules. It wouldn't be a huge deal to me, but it does show a lack of basic hygiene awareness.

                      1. re: alanbarnes

                        Well, now we're saying that the woman smokes unfiltered cigarettes!!! The plot thickens :) I think for some there's a "don't ask,don't tell" attitude...what consenting adults do behind closed doors,etc.

                        1. re: c oliver

                          Hey, do whatever you want behind closed doors. Just wash your hands (and whatever else you deem necessary) afterward.

                          1. re: alanbarnes

                            I don't have a problem with people smoking as it's their choice. Not washing hands after smoking is what I objected to. Basic hygiene.

                            I also live in the "magic house" (loved that thread!). And we wash our hands.

                      2. re: c oliver

                        While most of this is overkill, there are posters from the public health department for restaurant staff stating that if anyone has touched their nose, mouth, cigarette, hair, other body parts...hands must be washed before continuing service. Reason is that people can transfer germs from mouth to hands to your food. I don't believe the same is true for handling money/credit cards/pens..., although for the germophobes, it ought to be.

                        That said, I don't have a high ew factor and wouldn't have worried about the bagel order.

                    2. re: tall sarah

                      Despite my advice to the OP (i.e. "get over it!"), this is a little more concerning.

                      I mean, this employee went out and in the doors, handled everything in her pocket getting matches and a cigarette out, probably put her hands on a wall as she leaned back and had her smoke. This warrants washing up when you get back to work.

                      However, that said, avoiding the restaurant seems way over the top. I'd happily eat what she just made afterward too.

                      1. re: tall sarah

                        Serious yuck. Depending on the smoker, that smell alone could have carried to the food. And to me that's just as bad as the lack of handwashing.

                        1. re: Vetter

                          But it's not "unhygienic" or unhealthy which, I believe, is the point of this thread, isn't it?

                          1. re: Vetter

                            how could smoke smell transmit to the food? honestly? how?

                            1. re: thew

                              I have a very sensitive nose. I'm easily bothered by smoke coming from a car ahead of me at a traffic stop. So someone who has smoke residue or oder on their clothes and hands can pass that on to the food their handling. Believe me, I'll smell it. Same with servers and bartenders.
                              Smoking should not be allowed during the work day. I know that sounds harsh, but for those with sensitivity to the smell, it can really ruin a meal.

                              1. re: pacheeseguy

                                Please tell me that you're kidding. I am terribly sorry for your sensitivity, but you can't seriously expect the rest of the world to cater to it; it is unfortunate that you have such a challenge, but it is your challenge, and not the burden of those around you.

                                1. re: pacheeseguy

                                  jfood agrees with you. When a server comes to the table smelling like a cigarette butt it is disgusting and jfood has asked for the server to please move away while he is eating. That horrible smoke smell is as bad as BO in jfood losing his appetite.

                                  1. re: jfood

                                    But would you agree that, while grossly unpleasant, it's not "unhygienic" other than to the smoker?

                                    1. re: c oliver

                                      pacheeseguy had two comments:

                                      1 - residue on their hands could pass to the food. totally agree if hands not washed, but not stated.
                                      2 - smelling smoke is disgusting and could ruin the meal. Totally agree.

                                      And to be truthful, jfood is even harsher in his opinion. Smoking should ONLY be allowed in private homes. Now this is going to be a popular post. Oh boy is jfood about to get kicked, but that is his opinion.

                                      1. re: jfood

                                        Re last paragraph, I used to work with a woman (in SF, of course) who thought you shouldn't even be able to smoke in your own home. You should have to go out to the beach and have the winds blow it ... somewhere :) And we have had rental houses at times over the years, so not in OUR homes, thank you very much.

                                    2. re: jfood

                                      Keeping your body and clothes free of smoke is a component of basic hygeine. If you can't handle this, you're not going to handle my food. I have been known to simply get up and leave when a reeking server comes to take my order. if the offense is less severe, I just take it out of the tip.

                                      1. re: taos

                                        The Food Handler's Permit guide for our County Health Department requires that anyone returning to work from smoking or the bathroom wash their hands twice.

                                        From reading this, it sounds like that isn't necessarily standard.

                                    3. re: pacheeseguy

                                      I hate cigarette smoke. If somebody walks into the restaurant and sits down near me and they're a heavy smoker (or excessive perfume user) I'll smell it. If it's strong enough, I'll have to move to get away from it. But the smell is not going to magically transfer itself to a plate of food that the server was just carrying from kitchen to table. It takes time for smoke to permeate stuff... I picked up a beautiful purse at the thrift store that was in perfect as-new condition - I couldn't buy it because the lining stank like cigarettes, but I'm sure it took more than one pack of cigarettes to make it smell like that...

                                    4. re: thew

                                      Through olfactory hallucination. My spousal equivalent suffers from this (or rather, I suffer from it). He insists he can smell things - garlic, stinky cheese, anchovies - even when we have none of these in our kitchen. If there's a telethon for the afflicted, I'd like to know about it, because these people need our help.

                                      1. re: thew

                                        Trust me, some of us can smell it. I can tell if a smoker made my bed-- just the hands on the sheets. HOURS later. Something about the cigarettes in the hands. It's not just the smoke smell, it's something else. Not a smoker, so really can't pin it.

                                        1. re: Vetter

                                          again - maybe unpleasant, but not unhygienic or harmful to the customer served

                                      2. re: Vetter

                                        What if they drove a diesel car? The smell does tend to get on your hands when you're filling up, and it's hard to get rid of it even with a good scrubbing. Should those who drive diesels be precluded from waiting on tables?

                                        1. re: alanbarnes

                                          But aren't they all rich people who wouldn't be waiting on tables anyway???

                                      3. re: tall sarah

                                        Are you sure she didn't wash her hands? Maybe there is an employee restroom in the back?

                                      4. What was unhygenic about any of that?

                                        The gloves protected your food from any possible contaminants on the server's hands.

                                        The bagel didn't touch the produce box.

                                        The only possible source of contamination was the parsley. But while lettuce, parsley, etc. are commonly rinsed to get rid of grit, AFAIK they're never sanitized before serving.

                                        Seriously, if you're unwilling to expose yourself to this level of risk, how do you ever cross the street?

                                        7 Replies
                                        1. re: alanbarnes

                                          The box on the cutting board is the one thing that sounds problematic to me. If I understand the scenario correctly, it's not a small box of spices, but a large crate of parsley. Maybe the OP can come back and clear this up.

                                          1. re: taos

                                            If the box had been on the floor it should never have touched the cutting board. But the health code violation would be putting the box on the floor.

                                            Think about it - produce boxes get stacked up all the time. If the bottom of a box is contaminated, there's a decent chance the produce in the next box down will also be contaminated. And if that produce is something that isn't going to get cooked (parsley, lettuce, etc.) any pathogens have a straight shot to diner's plate (and gut).

                                            So the general rule is to keep things clean. A produce box can't be put on the floor or otherwise exposed to unsanitary conditions any more than a bunch of parsley can.

                                            1. re: alanbarnes

                                              The box was on the floor of something at sometime. It didn't hover in the air at the packing facility and then levitate all the way to the restaurant. Common sense says you don't put a produce box on a cutting board.

                                              i don't know what the gripe about the parsley is. It wasn't explained very well.

                                              1. re: taos

                                                >>"The box was on the floor of something at sometime"<<

                                                It shouldn't have been. Produce boxes sit on palates. They sit on shelves. But they should never, ever sit on floors.

                                                Seriously, just go back to the produce cooler in your local grocery store. Lots of boxes. All of them are off the floor.

                                                1. re: taos

                                                  of course a produce box is on a floor at one time or another, have none of you ever seen produce delivered to a restaurant in the early hours of the morning? The delivery guy goes to the back of his truck, sorts out the order, puts plenty of boxes on the ground by his truck while he gets organized, delivers to the restaurant back door, dumps half the boxes on the ground, stacks the rest up. Kitchen hands arrive, boxes come into the kitchen, are restacked on the floor while space is being made in the cooler, some are even left in boxes in the cooler. During the working day produce boxes get moved around the cooler including the floor and moved around the kitchen floor too.
                                                  Back to the parsley - it does not come prewashed in bunches in a produce box. There are usually elastic bands around the bunches and cooks don't want the stalks anyway, It needs washing (IMO) before use.

                                                  1. re: smartie

                                                    Maybe your experience is different than mine. I was once a prep cook at a restaurant, and worked my way up to the line. We received many shipments of produce. Boxes never touched the floor. Ever. If a manager saw a box on the floor, you were fired. Period.

                                                    1. re: smartie

                                                      re- parsley- yes it does. My sadness is that the cut-off stems are such god eats and so often thrown away. :~(

                                            2. I'm afraid i really don't see the problem here.

                                              Her uncleaned hands were ensconced in gloves (isn't that what they're for?).

                                              The bagel didn't actually touch the box.

                                              The parsley could have been pre-washed. Plus, even if it wasn't, rinsing wouldn't make it all that much more 'sanitary', just less potentially gritty.

                                              This isn't worth living about.

                                              Before you eat in any restaurant again, you should read Kitchen Confidential and/or chat with some restaurant workers. If what you're seeing here is bothering you to the point of not eating the food, you really shouldn't be eating out anywhere.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Atahualpa

                                                Great suggestion to read Kitchen Confidential!!!!! Some people really have no clue :)

                                              2. The whole thread reminds me of the "Don't touch money and then handle my food" thread:


                                                1. If somebody's going to be doing unhygenic things with their bare hands, they're going to do it with gloves on, too. I'd rather have somebody's clean bare hands on my food than some funky gloves.
                                                  So far I've lived through the '00s, '90s,'80s,'70s, '60s, and part of the '50s without suffering serious illness from barehanded food workers. I think people tend to attribute some kind of magical bacteriostatic power to gloves that doesn't exist. Except for the OP, who doesn't trust gloves to hold back the germs (so why bother?)

                                                  Sorry to be gauche, but if somebody is going to do something unsanitary they'll do it with or without gloves on for the most part.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: EWSflash

                                                    See my comment above re "behind closed doors" :)

                                                  2. Was at a pub last week- sitting at the bar. In the back I saw one of the waitresses sneeze into her hand, and wipe at her nose three times with her hand. Then she trotted out to the floor to serve the customers!! Never went near a sink, and never used a tissue! She was not going to be near me or my order, but I was really grossed out. I told the manager. And this was not a dive, either!!

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: macca

                                                      that would bother me. the other stuff mentioned here, not so much.

                                                      1. re: jujuthomas

                                                        Yup- I am not usually one to complain, but this, to me, was just over the top Is anyone with a compromised immue system was being served by this woman, the consequences could be really bad.

                                                    2. This would not even register on my meter. Have you ever went out to a restaurant in a foreign country? Ever try street food in a country that is not considered a member of the "first world"? If you have then this shouldn't be an issue for you.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: MattInNJ

                                                        Here's a recent thread I started about street food in foreign countries:


                                                        It's not everyone's cuppa, for sure.

                                                      2. Washing hands before putting on the gloves is a basic rule of good hygiene.
                                                        The earlier comment/question about smoking - any saliva on the hands can contaminate the food.
                                                        Hands should always be washed before preparing food. Chewing gum is another pet peeve of mine.

                                                        When I'm out in a restaurant and see un-sanitary procedures, I take notes and call it in to my local
                                                        Board of Health as a complaint. They're very good at following up. I've tried mentioning it to the food workers, and or owner, but that is usually a dead end.

                                                        Getting sick from bad food, pore hygiene, etc. in not fun. And a little prevention can make a big difference. I've been in the business for over 20 years, and my attitude is if you're going to serve the public food, then you should do your utmost to provide the best product you can serve.

                                                        5 Replies
                                                        1. re: pacheeseguy

                                                          Washing hands after going to the bathroom is a basic rule; never heard the one about washing hands before putting on gloves except in the OR. The lack of that AND the presence of a disease-causing agent MAY cause an illness. A broom handle or saliva don't cause disease.

                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                            This is what I've heard as well. In a medical setting where you are dealing with a sterile environment, handwashing before putting on gloves is critical. Elsewhere, it's not as important. Wet hands in gloves are more likely to develop sensitivities/latex allergies, so I can see not wanting to wash your hands immediately before putting on gloves if it isn't strictly necessary.

                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                              You're wrong there about the broom handle and saliva.
                                                              If the broom handle had been on the floor it could be very contaminated.
                                                              As quoted in the training material for food handlers:
                                                              "Small droplets of saliva can contain thousands of disease-causing microorganisms."
                                                              Did you ever hear of a cold or flu?
                                                              As for wet hands and gloves, it's important to properly dry your hands after washing, then putting on the gloves. I work with food all day long and I wash my hands countless times a day.
                                                              Hot water, soap, rinse, dry, gloves. It is not that hard to do.

                                                              1. re: pacheeseguy

                                                                Did you ever hear that the theory of spontaneous generation was disproved in the late 19th century? Broom handles don't cause disease. Saliva doesn't cause disease. Miasmas don't cause disease. Germs cause disease.

                                                                1. re: pacheeseguy

                                                                  No, I'm NOT wrong; you just didn't read what I wrote correctly. The saliva and the broom handle themselves do not cause disease. What MAY be on them is what MAY cause disease. If the broom is on the floor or even in the toilet and there are no disease-causing agents that it's in contact with, then it will not cause a disease. You should worry far more about what goes on behind that bathroom door and studies show that a huge percentage of people LIE when they say they wash their hands then. I prefer to worry about the bigger hazards but that's just me. But, then, I live in Sam's "magic house" so I have far fewer concerns.

                                                            2. Alternaative 1. Cook and eat at home. Control sources of contamination and don't worry.

                                                              Alternative 2. Go out to eat where others handle your food. You have no control. Relax and don't worry (or go back to Alternative 1).

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                You're forgetting Alternative 3: go out to eat, but complain about everything as your primary form of entertainment.

                                                                A bagel and cream cheese lasts but a few minutes. A rant can go on for hours. This thread has been active for two days. Dissatisfaction is eternal.

                                                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                  Absolutely brilliant observation. :o)

                                                              2. After a round of golf today I stop by the bar to order my lunch from my usual waitress and ask for a glass of water. She's got the bar gun in one hand and my glass of ice in the other and all of a sudden sneezes down towards the glass without turning her head.

                                                                First thing that comes to mind is this post and what am I going to do. She knows I'm standing right there and thinks nothing and of it. I end up saying nothing and she delivers my ice water to the table. Again another chance to say something and I don't. I'm usually not shy about speaking up and turns out she was out sick last week. So I'm hoping I don't get sick because like a fool I drank the ice water.

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: monku

                                                                  Are you serious? I would have given her a "look" and asked her to start over!

                                                                  1. re: jujuthomas

                                                                    Not sure that would have mattered....she was holding the glass and bar gun over the ice bin when she sneezed.
                                                                    I know her well enough I could have said something and the "look" wasn't necessary.
                                                                    Like a fool I did nothing.

                                                                2. The first thing that strikes me is that the parsley is 90% likely to have been pre-washed like lettuce or spinach. That part of it wouldn't worry me... I would prefer for the server to wash their hands between sweeping the floor and making my meal, but she DID stop and put gloves on. So that doesn't particularly bother me either... if you're oversensitive about food hygiene you're not going to be able to eat ANYWHERE!

                                                                  1. My husband pointed this out to me a little while ago. We're in Rio and walked over to the beach for a couple of caipirinhas and a snack at happy hour (a nonsense term since for these people, it's always HH). So we have a drink each but our snack (calabrese with grilled onions) was slow coming cause he was pretty slammed. So we talked ourselves into two MORE drinks. He brought them over, took the straws from the first drinks and put them into the second round! And I can almost guarantee you that he had NOT washed his hands. We never hesitated before fastening our lips onto those straws. Ya know,though don'tcha that Sam's "magic house" travels with ya???

                                                                    I've realized that this is subject is Miracle Whip or mayo --- you're probably one or the other and neither is wrong...for YOU :)

                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                                      Hope you are enjoying Rio.

                                                                      Try to find a fish restaurant where you choose your fish then they bake it in salt. It appears lake a lava mountain at the table and then they start chopping away at the salt leaving the fish. Then they de-bone it in front of you. You can buy a fish for 1 or for you and hubby.

                                                                      It is the most magnificent way to eat fish with some veggies and roasted potatoes.


                                                                      1. re: jfood

                                                                        We had fish like that in Cancun almost 20 years ago. Will have to look for it here. I've wondered about making it. We have access to really fresh, whole fish here. Obrigada.

                                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                                          jfood ordered twice in Florence. Oh man was it great

                                                                          1. re: jfood

                                                                            I seriously need to "talk" to you if possible:(

                                                                            I loved it when they broke the salt-shell. So moist. I wonder how they do that --- hygiencally :)

                                                                    2. I can honestly say that food safety is not something I think about or worry about. I think i am a clean enough cook and dont give it much thought otherwise.

                                                                      1. $.02 U.S. I'm not a doctor, merely a reasonably healthy human.
                                                                        If you go for the one hit model, that one germ, that silver bullet will make you sick. If you are immune-compromised that may be a valid model. For the rest of us; the lucky ones, nay, the healthy ones, the multi-hit model applies. Enough bacteria of the right type, where our immune systems are unprepared, will make us sick. Mercifully, just a few bacteria will rally our immune system, and keep us going, and prepare us for more challenges.
                                                                        A little soil, and a healthy or broad spectrum of biota will keep us robust., and able to enjoy diverse cuisines.
                                                                        Bring on the diverse cuisines, exercise a reasonable protocol if you handle food, and beware the overuse of antibiotics.
                                                                        As I said, my own $0.02 U.S.

                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                        1. re: Phood

                                                                          My sister and I still talk about the little cafe we visited while in Key West several years ago...went for some good Cuban coffee...and the lady changed a baby's diaper right on the countertop a couple of feet away from us. We still drank our coffee, it was damn good.

                                                                          1. re: Phood

                                                                            You might not get sick from one germ every time, but sometimes it's just gross and disgusting to see and smell, not to mention taste.

                                                                          2. Yesterday I popped into a take-out store where they have all the food packaged up outside. One of the guys working there was rearranging the food and one of the packages opened up and fell to the floor. I was watching the guy as I was waiting in line to pay for my stuff to see what he would do. Instead of throwing the stuff away (in front of tons of people) he just put the stuff back in the packaging and put it back on the shelf. And it didn't even make it through the five second rule as he was fiddling around with the other packages. The floor there is absolutely filthy. I stepped out of line, put my food back and walked out. What got to me wasn't so much that he did this but that he was willing to do this in front of so many people. I didn't even want to think about what was happening behind closed doors. I'm not naive -- I know stuff goes on all the time that we aren't aware of. But ignorance is bliss with me. I'm pretty sure I will never be going there again.