Can you catch the flu from your restaurant plate? It’s an important question: There are 20 million cases of acute gastroenteritis and 128,000 hospitalizations a year that are attributed to food-borne illness. Food expert Melvin Pascall says, "While there are dishware cleaning guidelines, there are no actual laws that mandate food service businesses must use them. We know that when public food establishments follow the cleaning protocols, they do a very good job at getting rid of bacteria, but we don’t know if those protocols work to kill viruses–and this may help explain why there are still so many illnesses caused by contaminated food."

It only takes a small number of viruses to make a person sick and many viruses could withstand the high temperatures used in commercial dishwashing protocols. Pascall has the following advice: When eating out, if you find lipstick on a glass, definitely ask for a new glass, but if you’ve already taken a sip, don’t be too worried that you’ve picked up something. Most lipsticks already contain an antibacterial ingredient. Forks are the hardest utensils to clean because of the tines, so always check a fork before you use it. High fat foods are the most difficult to get off, especially raw and fried eggs. And never eat from a dish or plate that has a crack in it–cracked dishes can harbor bacteria.

When eating in: Most dishwashers have several built-in sanitizing steps, but if you wash dishes by hand the three critical "Ts" to remember are time, temperature, and towel dry. TIME: When washing dishes by hand, wash and rinse immediately after eating to reduce the amount of bacteria that grows on the dish. And take the time to make sure all visible food particles are gone. TEMPERATURE: wash in hottest water possible to kill bacteria and wash away foods that bacteria can grow on. TOWEL DRY: dry immediately using a clean fabric or disposable paper towel (best) to prevent airborne bacteria from sticking.

It may be delicious and it may be safe to eat, but is it FATTENING? If YOU’VE gained too much weight, you need to download Anne Strieber’s famous diet book, "What I Learned From the Fat Years." Using scientific principles, she devised a diet that helped her to lose 100 pounds and YOU CAN TOO. At less than $5, it costs MUCH LESS than the ineffective diet books you’ll find in stores!

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