Before you reach over to add some delicious pepper to your food, think about how many people have touched the shaker before you. Does it look clean? Is it sticky? Unfortunately for us, it’s not uncommon for restaurants to forget to clean each individual shaker. This goes for the salt, sugar, and cheese shakers, but the pepper shaker just happens to beat them in the germ-harboring contest. According to an ABC News study, on average, a pepper shaker contains 11,600 types of bacteria.
Jonas Sickler, Director of Operations at ConsumerSafety.org states that “most salt and pepper shakers are only wiped down if they appear dirty, and even then, only with a damp cloth that bussers keep in their pockets. Another gross fact to consider is that parents, eager to occupy their little ones, will often let toddlers play with the salt and pepper during their meal. This means they will be covered in drool, and whatever else that is on the toddler’s fingers, which will help germs adhere to the glass surfaces even better.”
Besides the bacteria, shakers can also be allergy hazards. For example, shakers can accidentally be dropped or dipped into your meal while seasoning. If the previous diner at the table contaminated the pepper shaker with their shrimp dish, and you have a serious shellfish allergy, you could be putting yourself at severe risk by using it.
Therefore, if you like your food hot, you should ask the chef to spice up your dish in the kitchen. As for the salt, ignore it, and take the opportunity to cut back on your sodium – your body will thank you for it.