Here's Why You Should Never Use The Restaurant Ketchup Bottles

Are you actually eating at a burger joint if you're not dousing your fries with a steady squiggly of red coming from the tired-looking ketchup bottle on the table? Reddit has long been obsessed with what makes the ketchup at a restaurant taste so delicious. "Why, oh wise Reddit, does restaurant ketchup taste better than store-bought?" pondered user @Willtravel, who claims he tried out every brand in the grocery store without being able to replicate the taste the sweetness or saltiness of the squirt bottle on a restaurant table. Theories about everything from restaurants adding extra sugar when they refill bottles, to the lack of refrigeration enhancing the ketchup's deliciousness have emerged, but we may never know the truth to this mystery. 

Unfortunately, one thing we do know for sure is this: for health reasons, that restaurant ketchup bottle should be considered forbidden fruit. (And we mean that more than metaphorically. Ketchup is made out of tomatoes, so it is a fruit.) 

That's right: you should never use the ketchup bottle that's on the table at a restaurant. 

Restaurant ketchup bottles have all the germs

Could the ingredient that makes restaurant ketchup taste so delicious be... germs? Probably not, but germs could be one thing that differentiates the bottle of Heinz at a diner from the one in your fridge or pantry. If that crusted brownish streak on the side of the squirt bottle looks like it's been around for longer than a few lunch shifts, you're probably not imagining it. 

"Salad tongs. Door knobs. Booster seats. As a restaurant-goer, you may have heard that these common items can be hotbeds for bacteria. But here's a more surprising one hanging out right on your table: Condiments," writes former restaurant kitchen worker Perri Ormont Blumberg in Southern LivingLike the salt and pepper shakers, ketchup bottles "likely haven't been sanitized in ages," she said.

Beware of ketchup bottles that have been 'married'

It's not just the outside of the bottle you have to worry about. Combining the ketchup from half-used bottles instead of opening a fresh one — a practice called "marrying" — is listed as #1 in the top "15 Gross Things Restaurants Do to Save Money" (via CheatSheet).

One Reddit thread on the topic had restaurant workers spilling the tea on this practice. "I think it is one of the nastiest things we do in a restaurant. I fought my old boss tooth and nail over it for two years when I became one of the managers. Our battle came to an abrupt end one night when one of the servers was marrying a bottle from a lesser-used table in the back and there were, I kid you not, maggots in it," vanishedocean dished. Redditor JezebelleFiona concurred, saying, "I worked at a place that married ketchup bottles. The thing is, after a while of putting old with new, the bottle would eventually go rancid and explode (well, more like shoot the cap off like a bottle of champagne) from air pockets forming. This actually became a big problem when they were routinely comping food and paying for dry cleaning."

While not all eating establishments will marry ketchup, you might want to bring your own bottle, or carry some condiment packets in your pocket just in case.