The One Question You Should Always Ask Your Server Before Ordering, CDC Says


When you sit down at a restaurant, you likely have a long list of questions you ask your server before placing your order. How is the dish you’re considering prepared? Can ingredients be substituted or removed? Are there any allergens in the recipe? However, there’s one crucial question you may be omitting when placing your order—and if you’re not asking it, you could be putting yourself in harm’s way. Read on to discover the one question you should always ask your server before ordering food if you want to protect your health, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

RELATED: If You’re Over 65, Don’t Eat This One Kind of Meat Right Now, CDC Warns.

whisk in a metal bowl of hollandaise on a counter with eggs and butter and lemons
Shutterstock/Rimma Bondarenko

If you’re ordering foods that contain raw or lightly cooked eggs, like tiramisu, homemade Caesar salad dressing, and hollandaise sauce, always ask your server if those dishes were prepared using pasteurized eggs.

The use of pasteurized eggs—which have been rapidly heated to eliminate certain pathogens—can help reduce your risk of developing food poisoning from these dishes, according to the CDC.

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While dishes that contain raw or lightly cooked eggs aren’t exactly uncommon in restaurants, they can pose serious health risks, especially if they aren’t made with pasteurized eggs.

Though there is still a risk of foodborne illness associated with consuming food made with raw or lightly cooked pasteurized eggs, the risk of developing serious illnesses—especially Salmonella—is far greater if these dishes are made with unpasteurized eggs. According to the CDC, approximately 1.35 million people in the U.S. become ill from infections caused by Salmonella bacteria each year. Among this group, 26,500 are hospitalized and 420 die.

chef whisking a bowl of eggs in modern kitchen
Shutterstock/LStockStudio

If you think it’s safe to assume that your favorite eatery is using pasteurized eggs in its dishes, think again.

According to a 2004 study published in the Journal of Food Protection and carried out by researchers from the CDC’s Environmental Health Specialists Network (EHS-Net), 80 percent of restaurants studied did not use pasteurized eggs at the time. The study found that chain restaurants were more likely to use pasteurized eggs than independently-owned operations.

man putting plate of eggs into the fridge
Shutterstock/Monkey Business Images

If you’re thinking of bringing home any leftovers that contain eggs, there are some ways to reduce your risk of becoming ill.

The CDC recommends refrigerating any foods that contain eggs within two hours of their preparation, or within one hour if the temperature outside is 90 degrees Fahrenheit or hotter. Once refrigerated, make sure that raw eggs or dishes that contain eggs are kept at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or colder and dispose of dishes containing cooked eggs within three or four days.

RELATED: The One Vegetable You Should Never Eat Raw, CDC Warns.



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