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Restaurants serving up health risks, FDA warns

Employees at three out of four restaurants don’t wash their hands well enough or often enough while handling your food, says Janet Rausa Fuller.

She continues to say that more than half of fast-food joints aren’t properly cleaning work surfaces and utensils used to cook burgers, and roughly two out of three deli departments aren’t storing ready-to-eat foods at the right temperatures.

Those are among the findings in a new report released this week by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In 2003, the agency inspected 926 food-service establishments nationwide in nine categories — including elementary schools, hospitals, nursing homes and retail — and found widespread risks of food-borne illnesses.

The most common red flags in every category: improper food storage, poor employee hygiene and contaminated equipment.

Fifty-four percent of fast-food workers, 40 percent of nursing home employees and 32 percent of school cafeteria workers were lax about washing their hands. Among full-service restaurants, 78 percent didn’t store cold foods at the right temperature, 57 percent failed to properly sanitize work surfaces and utensils and nearly half weren’t separating raw meat from ready-to-eat foods, the report found.