Why can a restaurant buffet be a risky place to eat?

LeAnn Heise, MS, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics
From a safety standpoint, there is a potential for some bacterial overgrowth that can contribute to food poisoning if the food isn’t held at the right temperature -- whether hot or cold. If you’re at a buffet at a restaurant, make sure the restaurant is replenishing the food frequently. Be careful with dairy products that aren’t kept cold, such as chicken salad, as they can grow bacteria relatively easily.
Peter DeLucia
Health Education
A restaurant buffet can be a risky place to eat, because there are many other people looking, breathing, spitting and sneezing on the food. Watch public health specialist Peter DeLucia, MPA, explain safety guidelines for a healthy buffet experience.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Buffets are breeding grounds for bacteria. Part of the danger of buffets is that the food sits out at inconsistent temperatures. The food on the bottom is burnt, while the food on the top is too cold. Additionally, you don’t always get real ingredients at buffets. A recent test from West Virginia University concluded that scrambled eggs from two restaurant buffets were not made from real eggs. Instead, the samples were made from liquid egg substitutes containing less protein and more water.

If you want to eat at a buffet, go when it first opens to ensure the highest quality of freshness. For lunch, aim for noon, and for dinner, go at 5 p.m.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.