You'd probably expect to find FECAL MATTER in a bathroom. But what about the dinner table?!
Our "secret swabs" uncovered what restaurants do NOT want you to know.
With sterile sponges and an undercover camera in tow, we hit FIVE Memphis-area eateries.
We swabbed table-tops, salt and pepper shakers, ketchup bottles, and seating.
Microbiologist Connie Cook says, "As you can see, we've got a lot of colonies."
The more dots there are --the DIRTIER the sample.
Microbiologist Connie Cook is the expert to whom we gave our sponges.
What she found will shock you!
Cook continues, "There was one restaurant that had a significant level of Coliforms in the sample we got."
Still not shocked? Wait until you hear from where Coliforms come from.
"It can be human waste, it can be animal waste--but it is from fecal matter," says Cook.
The worst offender of the bunch we tested came from this IHOP on Shelby Drive in Whitehaven.
1310 colonies of Coliforms on our one little sponge.
That's nearly 40 times greater than the second dirtiest restaurant.
Cook says, "It didn't look like a dining table."
We visited the IHOP to see what management had to say about the alarming levels of fecal matter we found.
Here's what an IHOP spokesman had to say: "We are dedicated to great food and friendly service in a clean, comfortable atmosphere. Our cleanliness standards are unsurpassed in the industry, so a report like this is surprising."
This is how we conducted every test--putting a rubber glove on before picking up the sterile sponge--and while fecal matter may offer the biggest shock factor, it is not the only type of bacteria our secret swabs picked up at area restaurants.
The Blue Plate Café in Bartlett had NO fecal matter, but did have HIGH levels of Staphylococcus Aureus.
That comes from your nasal membrane and should be found on used tissue, not a dinner table.
It could cause an infection if exposed to a scratch or open wound.
Cook continues, "I really wouldn't want to see any of the Staph Aureus."
We found 1350 colonies on our Blue Plate Cafe sample!
"That was the highest of all the places we tested," continues Cook.
Once again, we went inside to get answers.
Isabel Maxwell with Blue Plate Cafe says, "Always wanting customers to come see us and that is a pretty high number, and we are going to take care of that."
Perhaps ALL restaurants should take our "secret swab" results with MORE than just a grain of salt.
"When they get ready to clean the tables, have a little more bleach in there--do a little more sanitizing than what they're doing," Maxwell continues.
Many customers say they will definitely keep potential dangers at the dinner table in mind.
Microbiologist Connie Cook says, "Everyone is not hygiene clean, you know."
Our secret swabs prove it!
Here are the results of the tests:
IHOP on Shelby Drive: 1310 Coliform Plate Count; 54 Staphylococcus Aureus
Friday's at Union and Third: 36 Coliform Plate Count; 36 Staphylococcus Aureus
Top's on Union: Less than 10 Coliform Plate Count; 324 Staphylococcus Aureus
Wendy's at Poplar and Perkins: Less than 10 Coliform Plate Count; 1080 Staphylococcus Aureus