The Real Deal: Whether it was the blue-plate special or prix fixe that put you out of commission, the bug most often to blame is Norovirus. This virus infects 23 million people a year, making it the number-one cause of food poisoning. Better known as the stomach flu or gastroenteritis, Norovirus is spread through fecal matter; in restaurants it's usually passed from workers who don't wash their hands properly after using the toilet. Approximately 12 to 60 hours after eating a contaminated meal, you'll come down with nausea, a fever, chills, and diarrhea. Most people feel better after a day and don't suffer any long-term effects.
Read health-inspection reports
Before eating in a new place, check with your local Department of Health to see whether there have been any recent health-code violations (search online or call them directly).
Give the establishment a once-over
Do tables and utensils look clean? Are floors, walls, and ceilings in good shape? If not, you've identified the most common restaurant inspection violations, according to a study from the CDC. If a place looks dirty, you can bet that hygiene isn't a top priority.
Hit the restroom
"It's the best indicator of an establishment's general cleanliness," says Bhunia. "If the bathroom isn't clean, places the public doesn't see are likely to be worse."
Not necessarily. In organic farming animal manure is used as a fertilizer. Tainted manure can seep into the soil and water supply, contaminating fruits and vegetables, says food scientist Robert Gravani, Ph.D.: "Organic produce can be as much a threat as conventionally grown crops, so use the same precautions."