Why You Shouldn’t Touch the Sushi at All-You-Can-Eat Buffets

Updated: Sep. 03, 2023

Make sure you know what foods to try and what foods to avoid before going to all-you-can-eat buffets.

All-you-can-eat buffets seem like a food mecca with a seemingly endless amount of delicious food. Depending on the buffet, there’s often a wide variety of food options available like soups, salads, and bowls of pasta. However, you have to take extra care in deciding what goes on your plate. After taking a walk around the buffet to take in all of the options, it might be best to skip the enticing rolls of sushi displayed on the counter and load up on one of the foods nutritionists always eat at buffets, instead.

Eating sushi that is made with raw meat may put you at risk for foodborne illness,” says Lauri Wright, PhD, RDN, Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and Chair of the Department of Nutrition & Dietetics at the University of North Florida. “Without cooking, the fish may harbor such bacteria as salmonella, vibrio, and some parasites. Properly processing and handling the sushi can reduce the risk of food poisoning. That being said, all-you-can-eat buffets can often be a food safety challenge in themselves because it is hard to maintain the proper temperatures even on a bed of ice and the food sits out for a long time.” Pay attention to the 9 rules about eating Japanese food that you must follow, too.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, about 48 million people get sick from foodborne illnesses in the United States every year. The best conditions for bacteria to develop is when food temperature is lukewarm. It’s important to know how long food has been sitting out, and whether food has been cooked properly or is being served raw. According to the CDC website, “Germs that can make you sick grow quickly when food is lukewarm, between 40°F and 140°F. That’s why it’s important to keep cold foods cold (under 40°F), and hot foods hot (over 140°F).” It’s best to take precautions regarding food safety, and that includes out in buffets, restaurants, and in your own kitchen, like knowing which things you should always wash before cooking.
Sushi certainly isn’t the only thing you’ll want to be concerned with at all-you-can-eat buffets. “Besides the danger of foodborne illness in sushi and other foods at a buffet, consider also the many hands touching the serving utensils,” says Wright. “The person touching the serving spoon ahead of you might have just sneezed into their hand or gone to the bathroom before touching the spoon.”
There are a few quick etiquette tips you should know when getting food at an all-you-can-eat buffet. Be sure to wash your hands as soon as you enter the restaurant before touching serving utensils. Never use your hands to add food to your plate. Always take a new plate when going back to the buffet line.