The appeal of buffets is obvious – instead of just choosing one or two items on the menu, you get them all!
But there are some risks. Reputable buffet places like Aria, Bacchanal and Wicked Spoon take great care in ensuring their food is clean and safe for their guests. But we can never be too sure. Foods in buffets may not be kept at the right temperature or the diners may have mishandled or cross-contaminated the food.
That does not mean you should avoid buffets. On the contrary, buffets actually give you a lot of bang for your buck and people should try eating in a buffet at least once in their life. Just keep in mind the bits of information you’ll find in this article to be safe.
Before you start piling food, check if the food bar is up to the mark. The serving stations should be clean, staff are very visible and attentive, there are serving utensils for each dish, and the establishment looks clean and sanitary.
If all these requirements are met, then it’s time to proceed to phase 2 – which is to make sure none of the items we’ve listed here is on your plate.
1. Wilted lettuce and anything that looks off
You eat with your eyes first so if you find anything that has dried out or may have sat too long on the dish plate, skip it. Moreover, don’t take anything that’s not kept at their proper temperature. For example, hot food should be kept hot, otherwise don’t eat it. Cold shrimp cocktail should also be kept on ice, and not in a pool of water. Foodborne pathogens grow really fast.
2. Raw food
The Food and Drug Administration states that raw fish must be frozen to prevent bacteria from growing within it, so if you’re planning to fill your plate with sushi and sashimi you might want to think twice before doing so. We don’t know for sure if the raw seafood being served was previously frozen. And even if it was, you don’t know for sure how long it has been kept at room temperature on the buffet table. So, unless the sushi is kept on ice, it’s definitely a no-go.
3. Fried foods
Fried foods have very few health benefits, they are packed with calories and oil, and the ones served in buffets are often lacking in flavor. Besides, fried foods have usually been sitting on the buffet bar for too long.
4. Caesar salad
If you’re concerned about food safety stay away from salads that use raw or lightly cooked ingredients like eggs. Caesar salad uses eggs for its dressing and unless you cook it at home or in a high end restaurant, you run the risk of ingesting harmful bacteria.
5. Quiche and soufflé
The FDA states that quiches and soufflés, should be handled properly since these things also contain eggs. They need to be refrigerated before serving and then reheated to 165 degrees before eating them. If you’re confident that the buffet you chose follows these rules then perhaps its OK to eat these egg-based dishes.
6. Fried vegetables
In a buffet, adding some fried vegetables on your plate may sound like a good idea. However, deep fried foods contain tons of free radicals, which are harmful to your body. You’re much better off with steamed or boiled veggies.
7. Pasta salad and potato salad
These cream-based dishes aren’t particularly light and they contain a ton of starch. But the reason why we included these in our list of what not to eat in a buffet is mainly because they contain ingredients like eggs, mayo and dairy products which tend to spoil easily. If these salads sit out too long, you could contract a foodborne illness.