Food Safety Warnings on Restaurant Menus

Restaurant menu can have food warnings that can confuse customers.
Restaurant menu can have food warnings that can confuse customers. (Image: Image by, courtesy of zyphbear)

Restaurant menus often have warnings about the safety of certain foods. People can be confused about this and wonder if they should order these items. Some foods are required to have warnings but the consumer shouldn't be scared

Defining Menus

A menu is considered a legal contract and consumers should feel confident that they are getting what they ordered and that what they ordered is fresh and safe.


The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the agency in charge of making sure the public has a safe food supply. Restaurants want to serve safe food so the consumer keeps coming back but they must label certain foods with a warning. Since the restaurants don't want to scare anyone, the warning is usually in small print the bottom of the menu.

Foods that Need Warnings

The FDA has imposed the rule that a warning must go on a menu if the restaurant serves undercooked shellfish, fish and seafood. Undercooked means that they fish has not been cooked to a final temperature of 145 degrees F a minimum of 15 seconds. Examples of undercooked fish include sushi and tuna tarta, both common restaurant offerings. Meat and chicken are not subject to the warning.

Why a Warning?

The FDA posed this rule because some people can become ill when eating these foods. People most likely to become sick are the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems. Normal healthy adults shouldn't worry about becoming sick from these foods. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and in extreme cases, death.

Fish and Shellfish

Shellfish and fish can carry bacteria, viruses and toxins that cause some people to become ill. Heating the fish to a temperature of 145 degrees F for at least 15 seconds is strong enough to kill most toxins and make the fish virtually safe for everyone, young and old. This is good to note for home cooks.

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