June 23, 2007

Money and fast food can make you sick

As if you needed another reason not to eat in a fast food restaurant, Swiss researchers have confirmed why fast food restaurants literally may make you sick to your stomach.

I have always had a problem with workers who handle food and handle money. How about when you handle money and then eat? I see lots of people washing their hands before ordering their food, but when's the last time you saw someone order food at McDonald's, pay for it and then go into the bathroom to wash up. Never, would be my answer.

Maybe we all should.

This report has absolutely nothing to do with the RightSize of fast food, and everything to do with how unhealthy it is to be eating food with your hands.

As many as 69 percent of motorists eat meals on wheels by some survey accounts, a trend that fast-food restaurants and convenience stores have duly noted.

Witness the growing number of meals and snacks designed to be eaten easily with one hand. (Could there be any other reason for French toast sticks at Burger King?)

Earlier this year, 7-Eleven introduced Go-Go Taquitos, a to-go deep-fried tortillas. It took the company more than a year to develop a portable version of notoriously messy Mexican food.

The National Restaurant Association estimates that one-third of consumers age 18 to 24 eat more frequently in their cars now than two years ago.

We all know it's dangerous to eat and drive, and yet no one realizes it's more dangerous to pay and eat.

Why? Because no one washes their hands (their only dining utensil when driving) after paying for their food.

And because you don't wash your hands, you now have the nastiest germs on them from the money you just touched.

Swiss researchers have reported that influenza viruses can survive — alive and potentially infectious — on paper money for up to 17 days in some cases.

It’s not known what portion of influenza transmission is due to the touching of contaminated surfaces with hands which then transport viruses to the vulnerable mucous membranes of the nose or mouth. And this study can’t answer that question.

But lead author Yves Thomas said Wednesday he believes the touching of contaminated surfaces plays a role in the spread of flu. And those contaminated surfaces can include folding money.

"When you see that the virus is still alive for several days, I can’t imagine that it does not infect. I’m sure that it can infect," Thomas, a virologist at the Swiss National Centre for Influenza, said at a major international conference, Options for the Control of Influenza.

"It’s still alive. And it’s alive in quantities that can infect."

Think about that the next time you eat a taco by the dashboard light.

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