Michelle Bridgestock, a student at Abilene’s Holland Medical High School, recently released the results of a medical research project she conducted as part of an independent study course. Ms. Bridgestock tested menus at 12 local Abilene restaurants for the presence of bacteria. Most menus tested positive for bacteria commonly found in soil, and of the 12 tested, one menu revealed traces of staph, and another traces of E. coli.
It’s easy to imagine how menus could become contaminated. Hostesses, waiters, waitresses, and bussers regularly handle menus without the opportunity to wash their hands beforehand, and bacteria are everywhere. In addition to restaurant staff, menus are handled by several customers every day. Some may wash or use an alcohol-based sanitizer on their hands before handling the menu, but most likely do not. Any bacteria that was on a customer’s hands before they entered the restaurant can easily transfer to a menu in one touch.
In an article for the Abilene Reporter News, Ms. Bridgestock commented on her findings: "When you go to a hospital, you expect a lot of germs so you clean a lot. But when you go out to eat, you don’t think about it. Sanitation is important wherever you are. Wash your hands after using the menu."
She added, "You would never guess which restaurants were bad."
It would be interesting to see whether health inspection reports corresponded to Ms. Bridgestock’s findings. Did the restaurants with menus that tested high for bacterial count score poorly when last evaluated by city or county health inspectors?