Photo: LarisaBozhikova (iStock)

Sure, nearly everything is a gross, germy wasteland. Like when you go to the corner diner, you can pray that the laminated menus have been wiped off recently, but who really knows? As Reader’s Digest points out, your troubles don’t end there. Many of those attractive adds on your table—sugar, ketchup, butter packets—may also be swarming with germs. Especially… the pepper shaker.

According to a 2010 study by ABC News, the pepper shaker came in second as the most disgusting thing on your table, with a bacterial count of 11,800 organisms—which I guess sounds like a lot? (It doesn’t beat menus, which according to this study is 10 times germier.) Jonas Sickler, director of operations at ConsumerSafety.org, explains to Reader’s Digest: “Most salt and pepper shakers are only wiped down if they appear dirty, and even then, only with a damp cloth that bussers keep in their pockets… While some restaurants collect, refill, and wipe down shakers, they are rarely properly emptied and sanitized.”

Compounding even that, says Sickler, is the fact that many parents often give the germ factories known as children salt and pepper shakers to play with at the table (um, guilty). Also, he points out, who knows if someone has dropped the pepper shaker in a plate of shrimp scampi, leaving that shaker swarming with salmonella? We have to hand it to Sickler for coming up with all of these worst-case scenarios regarding restaurant dining and germs. We bet he’s a lot of fun at parties.

Unfortunately, we’re not sure what the solution is here, unless you want to travel around with anti-bacterial wipes and/or an economy size bottle of hand-sanitizer.