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I certainly hope the answer to this question is yes, but do restaurants regularly disinfect baskets and trays? Even if they are covered with paper wrappers or placemats?

Are there fairly universal state laws requiring this? Any data on noncompliance rates?

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I cannot speak to the general case, but when I worked in large scale food service, the answer was absolutely, yes, all trays (we didn't run baskets) were run through the dish machine after every customer. –  SAJ14SAJ Jun 21 '13 at 0:37
    
Why the downvote? –  Jeff Axelrod Jun 21 '13 at 1:20
    
Wasn't me... I did a lot of research, since it has been almost 25 years since I did this stuff for a living. I don't recall direct references in the code then, and I could not find any now. I suspect it is subsumed under smallwares, or just a general interpretation of the various local codes. Even the CA code linked in the answer below only contains one reference to the word "tray" and that is in the context of dishwasher trays. –  SAJ14SAJ Jun 21 '13 at 1:28
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Unlike @SAJ14SAJ, I spent years working in (lower grade) "professional" kitchens that served on dinnerware, baskets and trays-- none of which were cleaned regularly. That said, they are supposed to be. I think this question is hard to answer in that each restaurant behaves different and each region/state/country has varying laws. –  colejkeene Jun 21 '13 at 1:30
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+1 - completely well-formulated question. My complete guess about downvotes: people often just downvote questions they don't like. It's supposed to mean "not useful", but sometimes people use it to mean "I don't like questions like this, I think it's vaguely off-topic/subjective/rubs me the wrong way." I think those concerns are unfounded here, but if they weren't, they're of course better voiced on meta or with a vote to close. –  Jefromi Jun 21 '13 at 2:37

3 Answers 3

I run a restaurant in California and every multi-use item touched by a customer in any way gets washed and sanitized, even if we use wax/paper wrappers.

The actual law is in Chapter 5 of the Cal Code (for California, obviously): http://www.cdph.ca.gov/services/Documents/fdbRFC.pdf

No idea if there's noncompliance rates out there though. (I also don't want to think about that, ewwwww. I hope that means that the restaurant's permits get suspended.)


The actual relevant quote is from Chapter 5:

114097 . Equipment food-contact surfaces and multiservice utensils shall be effectively washed to remove or completely loosen soils by the use of manual or mechanical methods necessary, such as the application of detergents containing wetting agents and emulsifiers, acid, alkaline, or abrasive cleaners, hot water, brushes, scouring pads, high pressure sprays, or ultrasonic devices.

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The edited quoted bit is part of it, here's another: "114113. Food shall only contact surfaces of equipment and utensils that are cleaned and sanitized." –  janeylicious Jun 21 '13 at 5:49
    
so I wonder if given the quote, the restaurant could defend itself from washing baskets and trays that are lined with paper because (ideally) the food wouldn't touch the plastic. However, we all know that food ends up touching the plastic in practice. –  Jeff Axelrod Jun 21 '13 at 18:12

I have been a part of the hospitality industry for many years now. The restaurant owners maintain hygiene as it could affect the customers' health if not done so. They make use of cleansing agents like detergents, solvent cleaners, acid cleaners, abrasive cleaners, etc. They also follow heat and chemical sanitization to disinfect food contact surfaces on a regular basis.

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a health inspector can find that out (pH swipe), but they don't come around often enough.

However because the accountability goes to the owner manager (the bus boy/person isn't fined directly), the compliance may not be high. The saying in the industry is: if you can imagine it, it does happen.

You'll do well as a consumer to follow your nose and find places such as janeylicious's place. You get a great sense for the place near closing time when staff turn to cleaning for next day.

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I'm incredibly flattered by the idea of someone visiting my restaurant based on how clean it is :) I was so disturbed by the food safety training course I took before taking over the restaurant that I even go overboard where I can (like I'm pretty sure no health inspector is going to care about baskets used with wax paper being sanitized, but whatever). To nobody's surprise, I have a difficult time eating out because I know not everyone is like me. –  janeylicious Jun 21 '13 at 5:54
    
I bet baby high chair condition is fairly well correlated to the other sanitation as well. I've been handed plenty a filthy high chair. –  Jeff Axelrod Jun 21 '13 at 13:36
    
Personally, I check customer rest rooms.... –  SAJ14SAJ Jun 21 '13 at 15:14
    
Yes, restrooms, menus, baby seats, staff apathy, or just take a sniff in the place. –  MandoMando Jun 21 '13 at 18:24

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