Hidden hazards at fast food play centers:
GILBERT, Ariz. — One of those who kicked off her shoes and slithered her way through the multihued plastic tubes of a fast-food restaurant playground here one recent morning was not enjoying herself in the least. In fact, she had a frown on her face.
“It’s bad,” Erin M. Carr-Jordan said, swab in hand, as she collected samples from a surface that she would later deliver to a lab for microbial testing. Nearby, a restaurant worker diligently sanitized tabletops and banisters outside the play area, but he did not appear to use his rag and spray bottle inside the children’s maze.
Dr. Carr-Jordan, a child development professor and a mother of four from Chandler, Ariz., has visited dozens of restaurant playgrounds in 11 states in recent months to test them for cleanliness. What the inspections and lab analyses have revealed is the widespread presence of an array of pathogens, from coliform bacteria to staphylococcus, at levels that experts said indicated that restaurants might not be disinfecting their playlands as diligently as they should.
Those same experts pointed out that germs are everywhere and that they are not always dangerous. They add that hand washing is an important safeguard.
“I’m not shocked or blown out of the water, because this is my business,” said Philip M. Tierno Jr., director of clinical microbiology and immunology at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York, who surveyed some of Dr. Carr-Jordan’s results. At the same time, Dr. Tierno said, “There are very high counts, and that means these places are not cleaned properly or not cleaned at all.”
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