Kourtney Kardashian's latest Instagram is stirring up some serious controversy amongst the germ-conscious crowd. The recent post included several different shots, but one in particular raised eyebrows. It depicts a tub-side feast, with at least eight plates of food strewn across the bathroom floor and perched on top of the (closed) toilet, tightly circling a bubble-filled bathtub. The general consensus among her commenters is: why?
But if we're being honest, Kardashian isn't the only person apparently enjoying meals à la toilet (although, to be fair, the pic has distinct photo-shoot vibes to it). More people than you think are chowing down in the bathroom, and even going as far as to eat while using the bathroom, lest we forget the very recent shower orange trend. So what's the verdict when it comes to safety and hygiene? Is "don't sh*t where you eat" practical life advice in addition to being a pithy idiom? Or is eating your food in the bathroom NBD?
Well, according to Amesh Adalja, MD, an infectious-disease physician and a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center For Health Security, it's the latter.
"In general, I don't think this is a major deal," Dr. Adalja tells POPSUGAR, shockingly. "Bacteria and other microbes abound in every millimeter of a house."
In case you're thinking that Dr. Adalja must be a solitary, fringe voice, know that he isn't alone in his views. Other experts agree: it's not necessarily unsafe to eat in the bathroom. "There's nothing wrong with it unless your bathroom is extremely dirty," says Julianna Coughlin, MS, registered dietitian.
The risk comes when you're exposing yourself to fecal contamination, and that risk is relatively low considering "no one's making lemonade with toilet water," Dr. Adalja says. (As far as we know, anyway. Who's to say the reddish water in Kourtney Kardashian's tub isn't actually fruit punch?)
Hannah Shine, AFA-certified personal trainer and health coach at Hourglass Waist, has a different perspective, though, one that falls more in line with the commenters on Kardashian's carousel. Shine emphasizes that the bathroom can still contain harmful bacteria and germs, so why even risk putting yourself in close proximity to potential fecal contamination — which can lead to nasty gastrointestinal illnesses like norovirus — by eating so close to your toilet?
Ultimately, the choice to dine in the bathroom is a personal one. You know your bathroom best. If you are going to eat in the bathroom, though, all of the experts advise thorough hand washing with soap and water before handling any food and after touching any surfaces.
And while Dr. Adalja says no foods are off limits in the bathroom, Shine suggests sticking to dry foods like crackers, nuts, or energy bars (advice Kardashian ignored, as evidenced by the chicken fingers, burger, and what appears to be a cucumber salad in her WC). Additionally, Coughlin advises picking your eating spot wisely: "I think the best practice is not to flush the toilet or actively stir up germs in the air while you're eating. And I would say, probably eating above the toilet is not the best practice," she says.
The bottom line: if you have a clean bathroom, enjoying a snack inside it isn't necessarily as bad as it inherently seems. So if you want to copy Kardashian's tile-floor feast, feel free to do so. Just make sure your hands are clean first.