Persistence of Salmonella and E. coli on the surface of restaurant menus

J Environ Health. 2013 Mar;75(7):8-14; quiz 54.


To the authors' knowledge, the role of restaurant menus as a vehicle for pathogens has not been explored. Menus, however, can pose as a vector for bacterial contamination and transfer. Sampling menus from two restaurants in the Houston, Texas, area showed the presence of up to 100 CFU/cm2 aerobic bacteria. Follow-up studies designed to investigate the ability of Salmonella and E. coli to persist on paper and laminated menus at various time points (0, 6, 24, 48, and 72 hours) demonstrated that bacteria persist more efficiently on laminated menus as compared to paper menus. Transfer studies performed to quantitatively determine the ability of bacteria to transfer from menus to fingertips and from fingertips to clean menus showed that bacteria can be transferred for up to 24 hours. The study described here showed that restaurant menus may serve as vehicles for pathogens and hence present a public health issue within the retail food environment.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bacterial Load
  • Escherichia coli / growth & development*
  • Escherichia coli / isolation & purification
  • Fomites / microbiology*
  • Food Microbiology*
  • Foodborne Diseases / microbiology
  • Foodborne Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Paper
  • Plastics
  • Restaurants*
  • Salmonella / growth & development*
  • Salmonella / isolation & purification
  • Texas
  • Time Factors


  • Plastics