Those Free Bread Baskets in Restaurants Have a Dirty Little Secret

It’s hard to avoid free bread when you’re starving and it’s sitting right in front of you, but once you learn to truth about them you’ll be able to wait until your meal comes to eat.

Sometimes the best part about going out to eat is chowing down on the free bread they give you before your meal comes. That is, until your food arrives, and you already feel full. But saving room to enjoy the meal you actually ordered isn’t the only reason you’re going to want to ignore the free bread baskets at restaurants, they’re also pretty unsanitary.

If you’re smart and stay away from the bread baskets to avoid the extra calories, you’ve probably always wondered what happens to the bread that no one eats. Well, sometimes it gets taken back to the kitchen and then re-served to another table. A survey on Reddit asked restaurant employees what items they would never eat from their restaurant. A number of servers revealed that uneaten bread is put back in the bread warmer and served to the next unfortunate customer. Here are some other foods that chefs would never order.

Katie Heil, a certified food safety professional, says that re-serving complimentary bread is a problem in restaurants. “The FDA food code forbids restaurants from re-serving any uneaten, unpackaged foods,” says Heil. “The reason is simple: there’s no guarantee that the food hasn’t become contaminated since it was first served.”

On the most recent list of food violations issued by the FDA, the third most common violation was insufficient sanitation monitoring. Heil says that re-serving complimentary bread can fall into this category.

One of the subcategories of “sanitation monitoring” is, “Protection of food, food packaging material, and food contact surfaces from adulteration.” Serving bread that has already been given to customers fits that violation.

So, the next time you go out to eat, steer clear of the free bread baskets. The upside of not filling up on bread is that you might have room for dessert after your meal. Also, before you pick the restaurant you’re going to eat at, know about these red flags that you’re about to eat at a bad restaurant. Check if the restaurant you’re dining at has been exposed by an employee for unsanitary practices.

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Morgan Cutolo
Morgan is the Assistant Digital Managing Editor at Reader’s Digest. She graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 2016 where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. When she’s not writing for rd.com or keeping the 650+ pieces of content our team produces every month organized, she likes watching HGTV, going on Target runs, and searching through Instagram to find new corgi accounts to follow.