Foodservice Equipment Reports

Clean Restaurant, Dirty Playground?

Fast-food chains have been under fire for what goes into their kids’ meals. Everything from toys as a merchandising lure to the fat content and calorie counts of French fries and burgers has garnered headlines, leading to changes at some chains. Recently, Jack in the Box announced it will stop offering toys and add fruit to its menu. McDonald’s has unveiled a slimmed-down serving of French fries and a fruit option in its Happy Meals.

Now playground cleanliness is the focus of at least one mom traveling the country with cotton swabs and a camcorder. The Chicago Tribune reported last month on the road trip undertaken by developmental psychologist Erin Carr-Jordan, who said she has visited more than 50 fast-food playgrounds and discovered sticky surfaces, filmy windows, broken equipment, food and hair trapped in compartments, garbage, and a thick black substance in most crevices.

Her activism, complete with YouTube videos, has caught the attention of a number of chains. Carr-Jordan has found that some fast-food companies, such as Chick-fil-A, regularly clean their playland areas. Though chain companies asserted to the Tribune that regular cleaning schedules are in place, none of them responded when asked whether they disinfect the areas with steam cleaning or other methods.

Carr-Jordan has been sending swabs of her findings to a lab that she said found Staphylococcus and other bacteria. An Arizona microbiology professor, Annissa Furr, is working with her to collect and analyze the data to spur legislators to act on the issue. "One of the ultimate goals is to put regulations in place that would require cleaning these places once a week or month or whatever comes back as necessary," Furr told the Tribune.

Under current laws, according to a spokesman for the Chicago Department of Public Health, a city restaurant inspector could not cite a restaurant for a dirty playground. "But our inspectors do monitor for insect and rodent activity throughout the facility," Jose Munoz told the Tribune. "And if it happens to be in that area, the establishment would be cited."

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