When it comes to avoiding these germy food situations, Bubble Boy may have been on to something.  
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Between record-breaking food recalls and cringeworthy exposés on food-related items like  hotel coffee makers, there are plenty of reasons to hesitate before eating and drinking outside the comfort of your own home. Food is such a large component of American social life, and we don’t want to miss out on all the fun. However, there are a few eating situations that are so germy, you do need to take precautionary measures.

A House Party

Double-dipping may not be a crime, but it should be. A study conducted by The Washington Post discovered 100-1,000 bacteria were transferred from one’s mouth to the bowl of dip after double-dipping a cracker. Even worse: The thinner the dip, the more bacteria were transferred. Avoid dishes like these when you can—especially if you’re already feeling under the weather.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but birthday cakes can also carry and transmit thousands of unwanted bacteria. Turns out, candles aren’t the only thing being blown out on the cake—the birthday girl or boy is blowing plenty of germs on it, too. The Post found 3,000 more bacteria on birthday cakes where the candles were blown out versus when candles remained lit.

Your Favorite Restaurant

Dr. Charles Geba, microbiologist from the University of Arizona, told The Today Show which items carry the most germs in restaurants. Turns out, they’re on pretty much everything you come in contact with. Menus frequently go unsanitized, and plastic ones in particular are culprits of hoarding bacteria. Tabletops are also often cleaned improperly, likely distributing more germs after “cleaning” due to staff using too-little disinfectant. This also leaves your utensils soiled, and they should rest on a napkin or plate if possible.

Your restaurant seat is also a pathogen hotbed. High chairs and booster seats are infrequently sanitized and often carry E.coli and fecal matter from the shoes of children resting in the chair.

Lemons have gotten a bad rap at restaurants, and for good reason, as the rind of the lemon slices adorning your drink are loaded with germs. But lemon slices aren’t the only thing bringing bacteria to your drink; ice cubes are also handled with unclean hands and can be contaminated with viruses or bacteria. Certain alcoholic beverages are more prone to carrying bacteria as well, mostly due to improper preparation and storage techniques.  

The Grocery Store

You really should just throw a pair of disposable gloves on before entering a grocery store, but since that’s not realistic, we have some pointers for you. An online reusable grocery bag retailer, Reusethisbag.com, recently tested the surfaces of grocery carts, food, and door handles from four different stores, and found some shocking results. Research showed a grocery shopping cart has approximately 361 times more bacteria than a bathroom door knob (ew). Many chains offer free anti-bacterial wipes for your hands and carts, and you should definitely take advantage of them!

Looking for more grocery store shopping tips?

While reusable grocery bags are a wonderful investment for you and the environment, it is still recommended to use plastic produce bags to prevent even more bacteria from hiding on your peppers. Juices from raw meat can seep out onto conveyor belts during checkout and reside in your shopping cart, either from you or a previous shopper. It is also important to sanitize after opening any doors, such as in the freezer section, as they can be contaminated with salmonella, listeria, E.coli, and other illnesses.

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Your Own Kitchen

Geba also reported to The Today Show on the germiest places in the kitchen. Geba mentioned kitchen sponges should be thrown out regularly, as bacteria and other pathogens thrive in a wet sponge environment. Door handles in your kitchen also need routine work. A recent industry study showed that the microwave door handle is one of the dirtiest place in the kitchen, and your refrigerator door handles should be included in this routine cleaning—especially since raw meat can be on your hands when you open and close the doors.

Cutting boards and countertops are also hotbeds for germs, especially when raw meat is utilized in the kitchen. Cutting boards have actually shown to have 200 times more bacteria than your toilet seat. Make sure to use separate boards for meat and produce, and wipe down your countertops routinely. Geba even joked that dogs know to drink out of the toilet instead of the kitchen sink, as there is more fecal bacteria in the sink than in a flushed toilet!

Lastly, wherever you are eating, The Post urges to avoid sharing food with anyone—it can transfer upwards of two million bacteria from one person to the other. The bottom line: Eat at your own risk!