Straws - food handling issues

from Don't Bus Throw-Away Utensils and Tableware

drink served with half-stripped_straw

The "forced straw" tactic is particularly disguisting in that it is essentially somoene putting their fingers inside one's beverage. Did the person use the toilet and thoroughly wash? Did the person have rhinotillexomania? Or maybe addressed an itch? In most cases, a server will handle the outside of tableware, but the "outside" of the straw goes inside the drink.

It's just gross.


The issue - well, maybe

Following some well-publicised studies concerning plastic waste (and a widely-viewed video showing a sea turtle impaled with a straw), several jurisdictions passed ordinances aimed at reducing the distribution of plastic straws.

These "plastic straw ordinances" would have gone largely un-noticed, a little like styrofoam clamshell ordinances, given that there is little profit in marketing plastic straws, except ... The "plastic straw ordinances" ran into opposition from unexpected sources.

One collateral effect of this are "forced straws" - placing an unwrapped (or half-unwrapped) straw inside a drink (sometimes even water). Effectively, the servers are sticking their fingers in your drink. If the momentary handling of the straw and sticking it in your drink were not enough, many of these are half-stripped to be sure that the part going into the drink is handled by the server. Not a safe food handling practice (it's somewhat gross), but there's a reason for "drink fracking" with these "forced straws".


Why do they do it?

It's not because they want to gross you out. (Most know it's unsanitary, but don't care if they think the customer won't notice.)

The people who are effectively sticking their fingers in your drink are doing so because they were told to do it. The people telling them to do it were (essentially) told to do it...

another half-stripped_straw stuck in a drink

But why?

It's part of the plastic straws issue, but not exactly. There's really no money in plastic straws themselves. (That's why you're not going to find plastic straws that are safe for hot food - the cost.)

The economic interests are not in the straws, but rather other throw-away tableware, and the very formula restaurants that are trying to put that local restaurant out of business.

The incentive is to gain consumer acceptance of throw-away tableware. If a throw-away item is accepted as part of dining at a nice restaurant, then throw-away tableware in general become more acceptable for in-restaurant dining. (Think formula restaurants.)

Hence "forced straws".

These appear in everything from bloody marys to drinking water. Well, typically not bloody marys, or for that matter milkshakes - restaurants don't like their employees to waste time partially stripping the straw if the customer will use the straw anyway. But in things like water or drinks which are freequently consumed without straws, you will find these "forced straws". It's as ubiquitous as margarine pre-applied to food - perhaps more so (except the health issue is not trans-fats, but rather the server handling the straw and then putting it in your beverage).


How to respond

This is a lot easier than most "Don't Bus" pushback. Just point out that (essentially) you don't want someone's hands in your beverage. i.e., point out that "someone" handled that straw, and then put that right into the (water, beverage, etc.) It's gross, and unsafe food handling.



First posted 8-Mar-20. Last revised 21-Mar-20.

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Other Pages

Don't Bus Throw-Away Tableware and Utensils

What to say (push back on throw-away tableware)

Microwavable plastics
Problems with "microwave safe" plastics



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