Be careful where and what you eat when traveling during the holidays — a recent inspection of nearly 800 restaurants at 10 airports found dangerous food conditions, USA Today reported.
The newspaper, conducting its own study, found tuna salad and turkey sandwiches stored in warm temperatures, raw meat cross-contaminating ready-to-eat items, rat droppings, and kitchens without soap.
"The grab-and-go sandwich problem, it’s a constant battle," David Jefferson of the Tarrant County, Texas health department told USA Today. The Tarrant County health department inspects food at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.
Every year, there are 76 million cases of food-borne illnesses in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Among the study’s other findings:
— In Aug., a worker at Cibo Bistro & Wine Bar at Reagan National Airport handled raw chicken and then bread without changing gloves. "I’m sure it was an isolated incident," said Chris Treloar at Cibo’s management firm.
— From October 2008 through March 2009, inspectors found rat droppings or other rodent issues at least 12 times at the Atlanta Airport. JFK International Airport in New York was cited at least 11 times for mice between October 2008 and August 2009.
"Food-borne illnesses come from either bacteria or viruses, and bacterial infections arise when food is not stored at the correct temperature or it is not thoroughly cooked," said Dr. Cynara Coomer, a medical contributor for Fox News Channel and FoxNewsHealth.com. "Viral infections are most commonly Hepatitis A, which is transferred from the hands to the food. This comes from poor hygiene, like going to the bathroom and then not washing your hands."
Although restaurants are taking steps to clean things up, Coomer said travelers still need to be careful.
"If you are buying cold food, make sure it feels cold and looks fresh — otherwise move on," Coomer said. "Eat at restaurants that seem clean. Make sure your food is well-prepared and cooked thoroughly enough to kill the bacteria. Try to eat foods that don’t need to be stored at correct temperatures, and consider bringing your own food from home."
Also, if you do get sick from eating out, report it to the restaurant and appropriate authorities so steps can be taken to clean up the problem.