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Coronavirus Just Another Reason to Avoid Salad Bars

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Matthew Mead, File

Even with all the media attention on coronavirus, we're missing the really big story:

Those disgusting hot food bars and salad bars at various supermarkets and food courts near you.


People put their hands on the lettuce. They cough on the olives. Multiple hands touch the ladles and spoons.

And government does nothing.

Consider that video that went viral before the coronavirus outbreak. It was of a man at the hot food bar at a grocery store, slurping cream of broccoli soup from the ladle. He put his lips and tongue all over that ladle.

Then he put the ladle back into the soup.

Don't tell me the ladle licker is some isolated case. I'm a germaphobe who grew up in the grocery store business, and I've seen some things.

That's why I've always hated salad and hot food bars. The ladle lickers are out there, and you know it.

Coronavirus is serious business. I'm not mocking what could be a pandemic. The government -- national, state and local -- tell us not to panic.

But I'm a news consumer too, and how can you consume endless stories about quarantines, canceled conventions, canceled sporting events, empty hotels and offices, no personal cups at Starbucks, and not feel nervous?

And I'm trying to add my own warning about those hot food and salad bars that are out there.

Since many liberal journalists are politically weaponizing the new coronavirus -- one columnist at The New York Times wants to call it "Trumpvirus" -- I might as well join the club and use the virus for my own political purposes.


I want those salad/hot bars wiped off the face of the earth because they have always bothered me, even before the coronavirus panic.

Why hasn't the government outlawed them? Why hasn't that soup sipper been arrested?

The problem with contagious viruses is that people panic because they know that others don't follow the rules, like the guy with the ladle.

Yes, it would be an overreaction to go medieval on the guy and lop off his hand and take his tongue. We are not living in the Dark Ages, yet, despite what Sen. Chuck Schumer is trying to do to the republic. This isn't "Game of Thrones."

This is still the land of the free. Clearly, nothing would say "You're not free to lick the ladle" like a large pile of hands and a smaller, neater pile of pink tongues. But we are Americans, not bloodthirsty psychos.

Let's just send the ladle lickers to North Korea.

That soup slurper was captured on video a couple of years ago in pre-coronavirus Chicago. But so what? Human nature doesn't change. Remember those stories of barbarians caught licking ice cream, digging their tongues right in the vanilla before putting it back in the grocer's freezer. Need I say more?


Don't tell me people don't reach into a salad bar and grab strawberries with their fingers "just to see if they're sweet." You ever work in a grocery store? You'd find peach pits in among the radicchio.

"I was at a salad bar at our local store and I was going to get some lettuce," said a responsible journalist. "Another customer whispered, 'Don't touch the lettuce. See that woman over there? She just put her hands all over it.'"

See what I mean?

To report this story, I visited a grocery store and spotted a nice fellow standing at the hot bar. He was spooning out some disgusting public vegetables for himself.

"Vegetable medley," he said weakly, and smiled.

Vegetable medley sucks, but I didn't say anything. I just stared at him, silently. He edged away.

An epidemiologist on a news site said we must be careful about the utensils at food bars.

"I would say that things like salad bars, you know, we will have to be very diligent about what are touching and all of these utensils that many people might be touching," said Dr. Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology at Harvard University. "That would be where I would see the risk of the transmission occurring, more so than the food that we are actually eating."


Food that we are actually eating? There's no "we" here. You eat it. I won't touch it.

Then I called the health department of a large Midwestern city on a lake. No, it wasn't Cleveland.

"While at this time we're not recommending shutting down salad bars and self-serve food stations, we continue to monitor this situation very closely," said the health official.

He said wash your hands, don't touch your face, stay home if sick, get a flu shot, and cover all those coughs and sneezes.

And I'd like to add this: Please don't sneeze on the lettuce.

And keep your darn lips off the ladle.

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