Contaminated fast food play spaces found in 11 states
Dream vacation? Hardly. But Arizona mom Erin Carr-Jordan is on a mission. Carr-Jordan has planned her family’s cross-country summer vacation around stops at McDonald’s and Chuck E. Cheese’s and Burger King and other fast-food joints with children’s play areas. She’s not out to recapture the joy of climbing through plastic tunnels and burying herself in a pool of plastic balls. Rather, she wants to find out how nasty these places are.
So far? Pretty nasty.
While her son and husband grab lunch, the 36-year-old developmental psychologist grabs a swabbing kit and starts crawling up the tunnels, swabbing all the way. She videotapes her climbs, making note of abandoned food, sticky surfaces and broken bits of equipment.
Carr-Jordan’s concerns about fast-food playlands started last spring when she followed her son through an Arizona McDonald’s Playland. The structure was disturbingly filthy. She complained to the store manager and asked whether the company required the equipment to be clean. After getting no responses, she videotaped the mess and posted it on YouTube, which got the attention of McDonald’s corporate, who assured her it was an isolated situation.
Not so, Carr-Jordan soon discovered, after looking at other McDonald’s PlayPlaces and other fast-food play areas. She also found that only Chick-fil-A cleans their play equipment multiple times a day.
From the Chicago Tribune:
"McDonald’s says it requires the facilities to be thoroughly cleaned each day and the area kept free of debris and soiled surfaces. Burger King said its standards require “daily, weekly and monthly cleaning of playground equipment, pads and foams,” as well as professional cleaning on quarterly basis.
Chick-fil-A corporate spokesman Don Perry said there are regular cleaning schedules for the establishments that offer play areas. And Chuck E. Cheese’s said it has eliminated ball pits, requires that “all existing play equipment is cleaned with sanitizer” and removes graffiti. Both of these companies noted that hand sanitizer is available at the playlands."
Carr-Jordan has found that it doesn’t matter whether the play structures are in nice areas or not, they are consistently filled with food, hair and other debris.
I think Carr-Jordan’s findings will be interesting, although not so surprising. I’m not sure my kids have ever played in a fast-food play area, certainly not on my watch (germaphobe!). But they’ve been to parties at Chuck E. Cheese’s, a place that always leaves me feeling like hosing off with rubbing alcohol.
But that’s just me. Do your kids play at fast-food places? Are you surprised they’re dirty or do you just look away. I mean, kids cooped up in a car need to burn off the energy somehow, right?
Most moms avoid fast food places for more than just the junk they serve because there is a lot more under those golden arches than just chicken nuggets. Honestly, the play spaces tend to be downright disgusting. They’re sticky, filled with food particles, and who knows how or if they ever get cleaned.The ball pit is basically a breeding ground for just about anything.
When my daughter started school, she received quite a few invites to birthday parties at fast food places. We did go to a few for her close friends, but some of the parties we skipped. Mothers in our circles usually groaned when we found out another party was taking place at a fast food restaurant.
Child psychologist, Erin Carr-Jordan researched fast food joints and their play spaces in eleven different states, and what she found set her on a mission. She spoke about on The Early Show:
“We found dirt and grime and rotting food and hair in clumps and swear words all over the place. Graffiti. Equipment in disrepair that is broken. Second-story windows that are busted out. Slides that have large gashes in them. You name it — if it’s a thing you don’t want your child being exposed to, we found it inside these play lands. We found several strands of opportunistic pathogens, in other words, things that can cause infection or disease. We found stuff that causes meningitis, food-borne illness, skin, hair, eye infections … fecal contamination, coliforms, quite a few things can make children ill, and several of which are multi-drug resistant and potentially fatal.”
McDonald’s issued a statement saying they are taking the findings seriously but they have yet to disclose their cleaning policies, if they even have any for their play spaces.
Carr-Jordan is not giving up until fast food restaurants not only create and disclose cleaning and disinfecting policies, but also adhere to them. She created a Facebook page called Kids Play Safe to bring about awareness on the subject.
Do you let your kids play in fast food play spaces? Do you decline birthday party invitations to these fast food places?