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Restaurants not fully labelling undercooked food items on menus; how to politely raise issue...

I'm in the midst of my first pregnancy and am now a cautious eater.

I have noticed that some menu items have * that indicates something like "Notice: The consumption of raw or undercooked eggs, meat, poultry, seafood or shellfish may increase your risk of food borne illness." Often this is on some seafood dishes, eggs, and burgers. BUT I have seen many menus where dishes are not starred but following conversation really ought to be.

I feel like such a jerk asking things like "Is your deviled egg made with aioli with raw egg in it? Is that raw egg pasturized?" or "Do you make your caesar salad dressing from scratch or from a bottle?" or "The toasted meringue on top of that s'mores tart sounds delicious; does it have raw egg in it?"

I hate being so obnoxious, but at the same time, would rather not consume things that are potentially hazardous. What is best way to deal with this? It is only my knowledge of recipes and cooking that has prompted me to ask these questions, and I'm sure there are people with compromised immune systems who don't know that housemade pepperoni that rests on top of an artisnal pizza rather than being baked in could be on their verboten list.

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  1. I know people don't like hearing this, but maybe you should just avoid those items for the next 9 months. I would bet your server probably doesn't know the answer and is it really worth all of the commotion if you can't get a definitive answer? It's not like you can never have those items again, you just need to wait a few months.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Philly Ray

      I agree 100%.

      I rarely avoided any food while pregnant except for raw fish so I just stayed away from raw sushi and didn't eat the kind of fish I prefer just lightly seared or cooked rare-like tuna and salmon.

      It's really not that long a time to "go with out"

      1. re: foodieX2

        Also agree. I was not a worrier when it came to most foods but if you are that concerned, why take a chance?

    2. Diners need to take personal responsibility for their food choices......the onus is on them. If you need special requirements, then you need to announce them beforehand. sometimes you can be accommodated and sometimes not.

      1. the enormous risk you are taking if the server doesn't get it right is, imho, not worth the inconvenience of sticking soley to "safe" food during the course of your pregnancy.

        the probabliliy of something going wrong with raw product may be low, but if you happen to be the person who comes up with the wrong number, the results can be worse than disastrous.
        best to play it absolutely safe during this period and assume that all servers and cooks don't really know what they are talking about.

        4 Replies
          1. re: Nayners

            It isn't necessary to be a physician to be aware of, and concerned about, potential hazards in food. But I don't think restaurants have an obligation beyond meeting food safety codes.

          2. re: westsidegal

            <best to play it absolutely safe during this period and assume that all servers and cooks don't really know what they are talking about..>

            That is a bit harsh. Everyone who is pregnant has different ideas about what they should or shouldn't eat. As long as they go to a competent restaurant and explain that they are pregnant and what they wish to avoid, your needs should be accommodated.

            I have worked in many kitchens and have always known my ingredients. I knew what cheeses were or were not pasteurized, I knew what meats were cooked, vs smoked vs cured vs raw, etc.

            Really not a big deal to work with any food restriction for any reason as long as the diner explains that they have a restriction, and what they need to avoid, before ordering. Bonus points for calling ahead and making sure you can be accommodated.

            Maybe all restaurants are not run this way, but as long as you communicate with restaurants you don't have to hide at home and never eat out.

            1. re: TeRReT

              "Bonus points for calling ahead and making sure you can be accommodated"

              That is a key point and the wisest course of action for the OP if she wishes to eat items she is concerned about.

              There are so many variables to getting correct information at the time of ordering. Language barriers with back of the house, servers not well versed in ingredients and preparations, and timing. I've seen managers running expo on a busy night scream "no questions - get out!" and fire the server who tried to get a dietary question answered...Obviously much will depend upon the venue.

              Unless it is high-end dining where the OP can communicate prior to the meal I think it is just safer to forgo the items she is concerned about.

          3. It sounds like you know what items to be concerned about so if I were you I would just skip them. Do you go out to eat so frequently that you couldn't make those "problem" items at home when the desire strikes? If I was worried, that's what I would do.

            1. Aren't restaurants forced to make the 'Notice: ...' by local or state laws?

              http://www.doh.wa.gov/Portals/1/Docum...
              is the Washington State regulations regarding eggs. Note special rules for 'FACILITIES THAT SERVE A HIGHLY SUSCEPTIBLE POPULATION'

              Dishes that may require the advisory or pasteurized eggs:
              - Eggs served sunny-side up, poached, or scrambled
              - Caesar dressing
              - Hollandaise sauce
              - Eggnog
              - Ice cream
              - Tiramisu
              - Meringue for pies
              - Egg-fortified beverages

              3 Replies
              1. re: paulj

                Varies very widely. More likely to be true in nanny-ish jurisdictions, less so elsewhere.

                1. re: Karl S

                  Even if a state requires a warning it doesn't mean that the dish will be cooked to FDA "safe" standards.

                  Here in Mass there is an asterisk on basically any dish that can be ordered "rare" with the following warning:

                  “Consuming raw or undercooked meats, poultry, seafood, shellfish or eggs may increase your risk of foodborne illness.”

                  Doesn't mean you can't eat it or order raw or undercooked foods.

                  Which is why I think a pregnant woman who is nervous or concerned is better off just avoiding the foods they are worried about. It is such a short period time, if you are that worried don't eat it. Is it really worth the stress it is causing the mother?

                  1. re: foodieX2

                    "Short period of time, just avoid...." you know, that seems like pretty good common sense advice.

                    As a dad, I did enjoy feeling those little punches & kicks a little sugar seemed to bring about. :)