The dangers from eating food we can't see being prepared are:
- Contaminated ingredients 'past sell-by dates' (if the country you're in has them), improperly stored or cheaply sourced
- Incomplete cooking to kill bacterial pathogens
- Dirty hands, cooking implements and preparation surfaces
- Deliberate contamination by kitchen staff
- Restaurants suffer more than most when the going gets tough since eating out is a luxury at the top of most people's belt-tightening list. Consequently the pressure to cut costs simply to survive, is enormous. Keeping food well past its sell-by date and buying in bulk to reduce portion costs, not maintaining fridges or buying storage bags (or re-using old ones), and being less fussy about the source of cheaper ingredients, all quickly lead to lurking dangers.
- Incomplete cooking is a less obvious factor affected by tough times. One might imagine very cautious restaurants could cut back on fuel and electricity costs. This is unlikely. The bigger danger is in employing cheap, low skilled, inexperienced kitchen staff - or simply too few staff to properly monitor cooking times.
- Contamination by poorly trained staff, rationed cleaning products, or a lack of management pride from increasingly depressed owners or under-paid head chefs will be the main problems. Pay peanuts, get monkeys (not known for their sanitation).
- Deliberate contamination by kitchen staff. I'm not talking about Al Qaeda style poisoning - although this can't be ruled out (take note Olympic Organisers). I'm talking about people who either find it amusing to see what they can get away with in the knowledge that a diner might actually enjoy eating whatever it is they have included on the plate - and which their kitchen mates might also get 'a laugh' from - but maybe more sinisterly, the growing encouragement of the poor to get back at the rich.