I spent New Year's yesterday at the home of a close friend. I ate dinner at his house along with his family and extended family. I generally enjoy their place except for one thing - lapses in food serving hygiene. For example, yesterday I saw utensils used to handle raw meat being in very close contact with cooked food ready to serve. Hot food was also left out at room temperature for some time before serving.

Today, perhaps not surprisingly, I got the stomach flu with fever, vomiting and stomach cramps. It may have been the food served last night that was to blame. I have known my friend for many years and generally enjoy a good relationship. I really prefer not to strain this relationship through this incident. If I directly confront him, I may be perceived as unappreciative and accusatory. My goal is for him to be more aware of how food can be served more safely, without alienating.

How do I tell my friend to increase their food serving hygiene?

In the worst case scenario, how can I tactfully decline future invitations if food is to be served?


3 Answers 3


I could very easily be the person this question is about, so I'll do my best to help you formulate a discussion in a way that wouldn't be a bother to me.

Before I do, I think it's important to note that if he's doing this sort of thing out of habit, it's not likely something that bothers him. While I will take care to use better food safety when serving other people, I almost never have gastrointestinal issues from my usual habits and I would suspect your friend doesn't either. Some people just have iron stomachs and don't realize it's unusual, you know?

So I would suggest phrasing any critique as a personal request rather than a judgement.

"I hate to be a pest but please be careful to xyz, I have a weak stomach and can have problems from that sort of thing... I'd really appreciate it, thanks!"

If someone approached me with this ahead of time and it was something I had been doing, I'd probably just laugh about it and agree to do my best. You could even offer to help, as a way of saying thanks (and also as a way to make sure things are being done to your standards).

Hope that gives some perspective and is helpful. Best of luck!


Confronting him directly at this stage is risky. It would be great if people were open to taking blunt criticism, but most aren't. I don't know your friend, but the fact that you're concerned about alienating him suggests that (like most people) he probably wouldn't respond well. "I've always done it this way and never gotten sick," "My mom always does it this way," etc. And telling him that you actually got sick may make it less likely for him to take you seriously (even though it should logically have the opposite effect) because it's unpleasant to admit that one has made ones' friends sick.

Instead, I suggest waiting until next time, and bringing it up in the moment when he makes the mistakes. (For some reason, waiting a few days before bringing things up makes them seem like a bigger deal and makes people more defensive.) When you bring it up, be firm but non-judgmental; a good way to do this is to say something like "I used to do it the same way as you, but I got sick a couple of times and looked into food safety, etc." Be ready with online articles if he doesn't believe you.

If you do this and he doesn't change, I would just stop eating the food he makes. Still visit him if you want, but eat beforehand.


I really prefer not to strain this relationship through this incident

Then you first option is to not bring this up at all. If food was the culprit, it's very possible others in the family got sick too and your message is alredy received.

If I directly confront him

Definitely don't confront him. The Interpersonal Skill here is soliciting or perhaps communicating information about the situation without being as you noted, unappreciative and accusatory. You can mention your illness without specifically including the food.

For example "Great party, I think I had too much Champaign, I was a wreck the next day. How'd you make out?" Being sick on New Year's Day is a well known occurrence. The goal is to find out if anyone else got sick. If so, no need for you to bring it up.

How do I tell my friend to increase their food serving hygiene?

My opinion is that because this specifically involves your friend's family, it's not you place to raise this issue. If it was just your friend or group of friends, that's entirely different.

how can I tactfully decline future invitations if food is to be served

It depends on what you want to happen. If you still want to socialize in that same situation, you have the option of simply avoiding the food. The Interpersonal Skill here is a little white lie to explain why you're not eating. Perhaps you're "trying a new diet", or just "came from another party" or "dinner with your parents".

If you don't want to go at all, just politely decline. No explanation necessary.

  • 3
    To be clear, you are suggesting that OP do nothing about the food situation? But why are you suggesting that OP should found out if other people were also sick then? Also, for how OP should refuse food at a future event, can you back up that what you are suggesting is indeed tactful and won't be badly taken?
    – Ael
    Jan 3, 2019 at 16:25

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